Jan. 3, 2013
FULL ITA RANKINGS
The Tennessee men's tennis team will open the 2013 dual match season ranked 19th in the ITA national coaches' poll, which was released Thursday evening.
The Vols finished 20th nationally and reached the second round of the NCAA Championships in 2012 are returning all six singles starters, including All-SEC performers Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham is back for his seventh year at Tennessee, where he has led the Vols to three combined SEC championships, four top-10 finishes and an NCAA team final appearance in 2010.
Individually, Libietis cracked the top 10 for the first time in singles at No. 9, and Reese is ranked No. 40. The Vols had three doubles pairings in the top 30: Libietis and senior John Collins at No. 14; senior Edward Jones and junior Jarryd Chaplin at No. 21; and Chaplin and Libietis at No. 26 together.
The Vols open the team season on Jan. 17 against Tennessee Tech at 3 p.m. at Goodfriend Tennis Center, the team's on-campus indoor facility. A few players will compete the week before at the Wake Forest Spring Invitational from Jan. 11-14.
INSIDE THE INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS
New national singles and doubles rankings were also released Thursday, and Libietis led the Vols in both categories.
Libietis enters the spring ranked a career-best No. 9 nationally. After playing every match at No. 1 singles and doubles as a freshman, the Latvia native figures to play high in the lineups again this year.
This fall, Libietis compiled a 14-3 record, reached the finals of the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships and defended his title at the Tennessee Fall Invitational. He also reached the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, his best career national performance so far.
Reese joined Libietis in the singles ranking at No. 40. Reese, who finished his freshman year playing up at the No. 2 position, had a knee injury shorten his fall season but still put together a solid first half, going 10-3 and reaching the finals of the Baylor HEB Intercollegiate.
In doubles, Libietis and Collins lead the way at No. 14 thanks to winning the Ohio Valley Regional title together while playing for the first time.
The Vols' most experienced team, Jones and Chaplin, re-entered the national rankings at No. 21. The pair went 5-1 this fall and captured the doubles title at the Baylor HEB Invitational. The ranking is easily a career best for Jones, who has 74 doubles wins in his UT career.
Libietis and Chaplin, who reached the quarterfinals together at the ITA All-American Championships, are ranked No. 26.
INSIDE THE REGIONAL RANKINGS
The ITA Ohio Valley Regional rankings typically follow the lines of a combination of national rankings and performance in the regional tournament. That was the case again this year.
In singles, Libietis is ranked second behind regional champion Ryan Lipman of Vanderbilt. Reese is ranked sixth, sophomore Brandon Fickey is eighth and Chaplin is 20th.
In doubles, Libietis and Collins are ranked No. 1.