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Vols Down ETSU to Reach NCAA Round of 16
John-Patrick Smith


John-Patrick Smith
For the third consecutive year, the Tennessee Volunteers are headed to the round of 16 of the NCAA Tennis Championships.

The Vols won the doubles point and took three singles matches in straight sets Sunday to defeat East Tennessee State 4-1 in Goodfriend Tennis Center to advance to the third round.

Tennessee (27-1) will join 15 other teams to play out the rest of the tournament in Athens, Ga., later the week. The Vols play Friday at 3 p.m. against Louisville, a team they swept 7-0 in Knoxville earlier this season.

Heavy rain forced the conclusion of the doubles competition indoors, but it did not slow down the Vols much. A few minutes after moving players, fans and equipment into Goodfriend Tennis Center, John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren won three quick points to give the Vols an early lead courtesy of an 8-6 victory on court 1.

Freshman Rhyne Williams logged his 12th consecutive win in dominant 6-0, 6-1 fashion over Charles Bottoni on court 3, and Smith picked up his team-leading 40th win of the year to give the Vols a 3-1 lead. Tennessee's other leading freshman, Tennys Sandgren, finished the match for the Vols. He rallied in the second set to beat Daniel Isaza 6-2, 6-4 on court 4 to seal the win.

For ETSU (16-8), its lone point came when Sander Gille, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, defeated junior Boris Conkic 6-4, 6-1 on court 2.

The Vols' goal was not just to join 15 teams at the final site in Athens, however. Tennessee is aiming to get past the round of 16 and beyond for the first time since 2002. "We have the goal to win a national championship. We have the team to win the national championship," Winterbotham said. "We need to have a little bit of luck, and we need to play extremely well. This is what we expected to happen.

"I'm still in tournament mode. You get a little bit of break now because we're playing until Friday. Our goal is to be at the final site and then being ready for the tournament."

Tennessee is one of four SEC schools to reach the round of 16, joining Florida, Georgia and Kentucky. Florida and host Georgia face each other Friday.

Almost Perfect

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Williams enjoyed quite a debut in NCAA Championships play. He shut out Winthrop's Liran Levy 6-0, 6-0 on Saturday. Williams led 6-0, 5-0 against ETSU's Bottoni on Sunday before snapping his shutout streak. Bottoni, ranked No. 104 in the ITA, managed to hold serve before Williams won the match a short while after. He is 24-1 in games during NCAA dual matches.

Williams has 36 singles wins this season, which is tied with Chris Woodruff for third-most wins in a freshman season.

40/40

Maybe it's not surprising at this point, but Smith did something historic once again, recording his 40th victory in both singles and doubles Sunday. No UT player has won 40 matches in a season since Adam Carey (1999-2000) did so in 2000.

Smith, ranked No. 1 nationally in singles, has a 40-6 record this season and is slowly rising up the career ladder. He has 109 wins as a Volunteer and is currently ranked seventh all-time. Carey is sixth with 112 victories.

Still on Record Pace

It looked like Smith and Davey Sandgren would run out of time to log win No. 35 of the season Sunday, but they picked up a late break to finish ahead of Conkic and Williams on court 2 and improved to 35-6, good for the third-most wins in a season in UT history.

Smith and Sandgren are now just five wins away from tying Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon's 1986 record of 40 doubles victories in a season. Taking into account all the possible postseason matches, Smith and Sandgren have a maximum of nine matches left to tie the record.

Singles
1. #1 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Grega Teraz (ETSU) 6-3, 6-2

2. Sander Gille (ETSU) def. #36 Boris Conkic (UT) 6-4, 6-1
3. #45 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. #104 Charles Bottoni (ETSU) 6-0, 6-1
4. #111 Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Daniel Isaza (ETSU) 6-2, 6-4
5. #116 Matteo Fago (UT) vs. Robin Akser (ETSU) 3-2, unfinished
6. Davey Sandgren (UT) vs. Juan Ramirez (ETSU) 1-1, unfinished

 

 

Doubles
1. #3 John-Patrick Smith/Davey Sandgren (UT) def. Grega Teraz/Charles Bottoni (ETSU) 8-6
2. #12 Boris Conkic/Rhyne Williams (UT) vs. Sander Gille/Jesus Bandres (ETSU) 7-2, unfinished
3. Matteo Fago/Edward Jones (UT) def. Daniel Isaza/Robin Akser (ETSU) 8-2

Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (3,1,2,4)

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