Feb. 23, 2012
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- For the first time in three years, the Tennessee Volunteers are back in the field of the annual Blue Gray National Tennis Classic this weekend.
The Vols (4-6) look to get back to winning ways on Friday against Clemson at 4 p.m. Tennessee faces Texas Tech on Saturday and Boise State on Sunday.
Instead of the traditional 16-team tournament field, this year's Blue Gray features three round robin matches over three days for all eight schools competing. The two teams with the best results face in a doubles match to determine the champion.
For a few quick notes entering the weekend:
THE SECOND LEG
The Blue Gray marks the Vols' second of three road trips in a row.
Last weekend, Tennessee competed in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va., for the fourth consecutive season. The Vols went 0-3, losing to top-ranked eventual champion Southern California, UCLA and Pepperdine. Despite the three losses, the Vols are still 21st in the ITA national rankings.
After the three matches at the Blue Gray this weekend, the Vols will start SEC competition on the road against Florida and South Carolina.
LAST TIME AT THE BLUE GRAY
Tennessee traveled to Montgomery in 2009 to compete in the Blue Gray when the tournament was still a 16-team men's draw. The event has since expanded to include eight men's and eight women's teams.
Playing without an injured Davey Sandgren,the Vols rolled to a 4-0 weekend to hoist the program's first Blue Gray title. Tennessee beat Alabama 4-2 in the final, and John-Patrick Smith, then a sophomore, was named MVP after going undefeated at No. 1 singles.
As the winning coach, Sam Winterbotham was awarded the tournament's iconic blue jacket, which he wore to the tournament banquet Thursday.
Senior Bryan Swartz is the only current Vol to have played in the event, taking the court for No. 3 doubles.
This weekend marks the Vols' first scheduled matches outside. Rain is in the forecast for Friday, but Tennessee should log at least one match in the sunshine. Tennessee has played its first 10 matches of the year indoors, but every match from this point on will be slated outside, weather permitting.
The Vols defeated Clemson 7-0 at home last season to qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Every Vol won in straight sets, headlined by Matteo Fago's 6-0, 6-0 shutou of Cal Hilsman on court 4.