Oct. 4, 2013
TULSA, Okla. -- Juniors Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese braved illness and opposition for a second day to reach the doubles semifinals of the ITA All-American Championships.
Libietis and Reese, the tournament's top seeds, collected two more doubles victories Friday to advance to their first career major collegiate semifinal.
They defeated Baylor's Mate Zsiga and Diego Galeano 8-3 in the second round and followed that an hour later with an 8-4 win against Florida qualifiers Elliott Orkin and Gordon Watson.
"They played with a lot of energy and determination today, and the results showed," Winterbotham said. "It's a good opportunity tomorrow against a very good team. I think we'll feel even better tomorrow."
Libietis and Reese will take on Nick Chappell and Will Stein of TCU in Saturday's semifinals, which will be played best of three sets instead of the usual collegiate eight-game pro set. The match will start not before 3 p.m.
The ITA All-American got off to an ominous start for the Tennessee camp on Thursday with both Libietis and Reese waking up with a stomach illness.
Despite the physical setback, Libietis was on court for singles for well over four hours and nearly pulled off a pair of three-set victories, eventually losing late in the third against Texas' George Goldhoff in the second round. Reese lost in the first round.
The two managed to sum up the energy to win their opening doubles match 8-6 over N.C. State in one of the last matches to finish on Tulsa's courts Thursday.
"I've been really impressed with how tough they've been the last few days," Winterbotham said. "We've been a little snake-bit with Mikelis and Hunter walking up ill Thursday. It was bad luck and we aren't making excuses, but I'm impressed that they've continued to fight. They're feeling a little better, so you can see the energy coming back."
For the last two seasons, Libietis and Reese have anchored the Vols' doubles lineup at the No. 1 position, and they are in their second stint at the top-ranked team in college tennis. Fittingly, the quarterfinal victory Friday was their 40th career win together as a pairing.
Libietis and Reese are the fourth Tennessee team to ever reach the semifinals or better of the ITA All-American, a national championship event dating back to 1979. Most recently, John-Patrick Smith and Boris Conkic played through the semifinals on their way to the title sweep in 2009.
"I think there's a turning point for the fall season right now and I hope we finish out this tournament strong and get back for a strong week of practice in Knoxville before we host our regional," Winterbotham said.
ITA ALL-AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (1), UT, def. Diego Galeano/Mate Zsiga, Baylor, 8-3
Libietis/Reese (1), UT, def. Elliott Orkin/Gordon Watson, Florida, 8-4
Stephane Piro, Florida, def. Hunter Reese, UT, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4