May 25, 2010
ATHENS, Ga. -- If anyone's heart stopped during Tennessee's wild semifinal victory Monday over Georgia in the NCAA Tennis Championships, it was understandable.
The Vols pulled out the closely contested doubles point in a tiebreaker and then earned all their singles points from the second half of the lineup to defeat Georgia 4-1 and advance to the championship match for the third time in program history.
Senior Davey Sandgren was off the court first with a straight-set victory at No. 6, and junior Matteo Fago contributed the second point on court 5. Freshman Tennys Sandgren clinched the match with a break, defeating Drake Bernstein 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 on court 4.
Tennessee (31-1) had to overcome more than just the Bulldogs. The Vols also had to overcome the noisy Georgia crowd of several thousand at Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Before Monday, the Vols had not defeated the Bulldogs in Athens since 1993.
Georgia (21-8) had won the doubles point in its previous two matches, but everything was going the Vols way early. Edward Jones and Matteo Fago collected a quick 8-5 victory on court 3 over Drake Bernstein and Will Oliver to put the Vols in command, and Rhyne Williams had taken a 6-2 lead on court 2.
However, doubles began unraveling for the Vols in a hurry. Jamie Hunt and Christian Vitulli won four consecutive games to tie the match 6-6 on court 2. Not long after, Davey Sandgren and junior John-Patrick Smith lost their second consecutive match for just the second time in their career, falling to Javier Garrapiz and Nate Schnugg 9-8 (6) in a tiebreaker on court 1.
Everything came down to court 2 where Conkic and Williams fell behind a break at 7-8 and had to break back to tie the match 8-8 and force a tiebreaker. They took an early lead in the tiebreaker, and Conkic hit a volley at the net to win the match 9-8 (2) over Jamie Hunt and Christian Vitulli.
The Vols have won the doubles point in all but one of their matches this season. Conkic and Williams, currently ranked 12th nationally, improved to 34-3.
Tennessee took five of the six first sets in singles, though Georgia evened the match by winning second sets on courts 2 and 4.
Davey Sandgren, with only two matches left in his dual match career, defeated Will Reynolds 6-4, 6-3 on court 6 to give the Vols a 2-0 lead. Georgia got on the scoreboard a few minutes later when Smith lost for the second time this season to Garrapiz 7-5, 6-4. The loss snapped his eight-match winning streak.
A few minutes later, Fago picked up his 34th victory of the season and put the Vols just one point away from clinching, beating Christian Vitulli 7-5, 6-3.
Tennys Sandgren clinched the match at the fourth position with his team-leading 15th consecutive victory. He breezed through the first set against Bernstein 6-0, but quickly lost the second 4-6. Sandgren led 5-4 and got a break to end the match.
Williams had nearly finished his match on court 3 at the time Sandgren clinched. He was ahead 7-6 (8), 5-0 and serving against Hunt.
1. #32 Javier Garrapiz/Nate Schnugg (GEORGIA) def. #3 J.P. Smith/Davey Sandgren (TENNESSEE) 9-8(6)
2. #12 Rhyne Williams/Boris Conkic (TENNESSEE) def. Jamie Hunt/Christian Vitulli (GEORGIA) 9-8(2)
3. Edward Jones/Matteo Fago (TENNESSEE) def. Drake Bernstein/Will Oliver (GEORGIA) 8-5
1. #22 Javier Garrapiz (GEORGIA) def. #1 J.P. Smith (TENNESSEE), 7-5, 6-4
2. #75 Nate Schnugg (GEORGIA) vs. #36 Boris Conkic (TENNESSEE), 2-6, 6-0, 4-3, unf.
3. #45 Rhyne Williams (TENNESSEE) vs. Jamie Hunt (GEORGIA), 7-6 (8), 5-0, unf.
4. #111 Tennys Sandgren (TENNESSEE) def. #115 Drake Bernstein (GEORGIA), 6-0, 4-6, 6-4
5. Matteo Fago (TENNESSEE) def. Christian Vitulli (GEORGIA), 7-5, 6-3
Davey Sandgren (TENNESSEE) def. Will Reynolds (GEORGIA), 6-4, 6-3
Order of Finish: Singles (6,1,5,4); Doubles (3,1,2).