March 13, 2013
On the heels of another top-15 road victory, the Tennessee Volunteers climbed four spots to No. 6 in the ITA national team rankings Tuesday.
The Vols (14-5, 1-2 SEC) return home this weekend after two months of road matches. They host South Carolina on Friday at 2 p.m. at Barksdale Stadium. Admission is free.
A few UT individuals were also on the rise this week as well, namely sophomore Mikelis Libietis.
With three top-55 wins in the most recent ranking period, Libietis moved up to a career-best No. 6 in the national singles rankings. He has won 12 of 13 matches this spring, most recently coming off a three-set victory over then-No. 12 Nik Scholtz of Georgia.
Libietis and fellow sophomore Hunter Reese teamed up again at the top of the lineup two weeks ago and returned to the ranked Tuesday at No. 17.
A LOOK AT THE TEAM
At No. 6, the Vols are ranked the highest they've been since finishing the 2011 season ranked fourth.
Tennessee has put together a strong resume away from Knoxville the last seven weeks. In addition to a victory over No. 13 Mississippi State over the weekend, the Vols have logged road wins over No. 15 Illinois (twice) and No. 24 Wake Forest.
In addition to that, Tennessee also has a victory over No. 11 Texas A&M at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle.
A LOOK AT SINGLES
Now ranked sixth, Libietis has been the wins leader in the singles lineup so far this season with a 13-1 record, 12 of those wins coming at the No. 1 position.
This week is Libietis' first appearance in the top 10 since January, when he started the dual match season ranked ninth. He is the third-highest ranked player in Sam Winterbotham's seven years at UT. John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams both enjoyed time at No. 1.
The progress the Vols' No. 1 has made the last year is obvious from his record alone. Playing at the top of the lineup as a freshman, he had 20 wins and was 12-12 in dual matches. This season, he is 27-4 and already has 13 victories in team play.
The Vols' sophomore trio playing 1-3 in the lineup are all in the national rankings. Libietis leads the way, followed by Reese at No. 29 and Brandon Fickey at No. 115. All three have at least 20 wins in both singles and doubles.
This week marks the second ranking period that Reese has been in the top 30. He clinched the Vols' 4-2 victory over Mississippi State last weekend.
A LOOK AT DOUBLES
The Vols' main story this week is obvious: Libietis and Reese are back at No. 1 in the lineup.
The two Vols, who formed the Vols' lineup leading as freshman in 2012, teamed up again for the first time this season two weeks ago against Georgia Tech. They have since started playing together again, they are 2-0 and have jumped to No. 17 in the rankings.
Not to mention the most important fact: the Vols are 3-0 in the doubles point since changing the doubles lineup.
Now playing at the No. 3 position, Fickey and Jarryd Chaplin are 3-0, including 2-0 in the SEC.