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Tennis Notebook: The SEC Awaits

Feb. 28, 2014



Tennessee's 2014 SEC tennis season serves it up for the first time Sunday when the Vols host rival Georgia at 1 p.m.

With 70-degree weather in the forecast, the match will also be the first time this season the 11th-ranked Vols (10-3) have played outdoors at Barksdale Stadium, UT's on-campus 2,000-seat venue.

For a look back at last year's SEC season and more, here's the notebook:

RECAPPING 2013 IN THE SEC

Tennessee's Record: 8-4
Tennessee's Finish in Conference: 2nd in the SEC East
Tennessee's SEC Tournament Result: Finalists
SEC Player of the Year: Mikelis Libietis
All-SEC: Mikelis Libietis (1st team), Hunter Reese (1st team), Jarryd Chaplin (2nd team)
SEC All-Tournament Team: Mikelis Libietis, Hunter Reese

Tennessee finished last season 8-4 against -- as usual -- deep and talented competition every week. At times, 10 member schools were ranked in the top 25 nationally. After a 2-3 start to conference season, the Vols picked up steam to win six of their last seven matches in conference. The Vols went 5-1 at home and 3-3 on the road.

During the spring months, Mikelis Libietis emerged as one of the top players in the league and in the nation. He earned SEC Player of the Year honors by going 8-1 at No. 1 singles. He and Hunter Reese rejoined forces in doubles starting in the second week of the season. The result? A 10-0 conference record at No. 1 doubles and the No. 1 national ranking.

Jarryd Chaplin proved to be a winner in the heart of the lineup. He went 7-3 in conference, the second-most wins to Libietis, while playing at the No. 3 and 4 positions. He moved up to No. 3 singles after Brandon Fickey was slowed by injury. The increase in competition did not derail the Aussie junior. He played doubles with three different teammates during SEC play as well.

The Vols wrapped up SEC play largely without the services of Fickey, who was sidelined the last month of the regular season with a shoulder injury. Fickey ended the year on a high note, however, when he returned to deliver the Vols' 4-3 win over Clemson in the NCAA Championships.

Georgia is the defending SEC regular season and conference champions.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: TITLES

The Vols have won 12 total titles since 1951: nine season titles and three tournament titles.

Tennessee has won three SEC titles in head coach Sam Winterbotham's first seven years in Knoxville. The Vols went undefeated en route to winning the 2010 regular-season and tournament titles. In 2011, UT won back-to-back titles for the first time by tying Georgia for the regular-season conference crown. The Vols did so by beating Georgia 4-3 in Athens, Ga., in the season finale.

THE END IS NOW THE BEGINNING

Rivals Tennessee and Georgia are now facing off at the beginning of the season instead of in the finale. When the conference expanded for the 2013 season, the matchup was moved to the start of conference play.

From 2005-12, the Vols/Bulldogs matchup served as the end of conference play. Usually, there was a lot at stake as well. The Vols beat Georgia in 2010 and 2011 to win at least a share of the SEC regular season.

The series between the schools has been streaky of late. Georgia has won the last four meetings between the two schools. The Vols won the three meetings before that.

COACHING RECORDS

Entering their eighth season coaching together at Tennessee, Sam Winterbotham and Chris Woodruff have compiled a 58-20 record in SEC play. During a stretch from 2010 and 2011, the Vols went 21-1.

In seven years, the Vols have boasted the SEC Player of the Year three times. Libietis earned that distinction last year and John-Patrick Smith was the conference's second ever player of the year in 2010 and 2011. Vols have earned All-SEC honors 22 times.

 

 

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