The 12th-ranked Tennessee men’s tennis team won its fourth straight Southeastern Conference match Sunday, defeating 24th-ranked Alabama, 5-1 at the UA Varsity Courts to improve to 6-2 in the SEC.
“This was a good weekend for Tennessee,” head coach Sam Winterbotham said. “You need these types of challenges in the regular season to get ready for the NCAA tournament and playing two top-25 teams on the road is certainly a challenge. I thought our guys were tremendous and the way they handled themselves this weekend was impressive. (Associate head coach) Chris (Woodruff) and I are proud of this team and how they are handling the challenges presented to them.”
The Vols (17-2, 6-2 SEC) won the doubles point for the 15th time in 19 matches. Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago defeated Javier Bes and Sammy Struyf 8-4 at the No. 3 position. UT clinched the point when 17th-ranked Kaden Hensel and J.P. Smith defeated 12th-ranked Daniel Buikema and Mat Thibaudeau, 8-6 at the No. 1 position. Hensel and Smith are now 7-1 in the SEC and 15-2 overall in dual-match play.
After clinching the doubles point, Smith, ranked 17th in singles, was pulled from the lineup. This resulted in UT’s regular singles lineup all moving up one spot and sophomore Matt Brewer entering the lineup at the No. 6 position. Jeremy Tweedt gave UT a 2-0 lead as he made quick work of Buikema at the No. 5 position. The UT freshman is 7-1 in SEC play and 11-1 overall this season in dual-match play.
Fago put the Vols on the brink of victory with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Bes at the No. 4 position. The UT freshman was only 5-4 in non-conference play this season but the Italy native has turned it on in conference play as he is now 8-0 in SEC singles matches. Fago is currently on a 10 match win streak.
Alabama (14-8, 4-4 SEC) got on the board when Michael Jung defeated Brewer 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 6 position.
Hensel finished the Tide off with a come-from-behind three-set win over 85th-ranked Saketh Myneni 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. UT’s lone senior is 10-6 this season in dual-match play and 4-4 in the SEC.
Davey Sandgren gave UT its final point with a hard-fought three-set victory at the No. 3 position over Struyf, 6-34. Sandgren is 3-0 this season at the No. 3 position in the lineup and 13-4 overall in dual-match play.
Conkic’s match against Thibaudeau was suspended in the third set with both players tied at one game. The coaches decided not to play it out since Tennessee had already clinched the match.
Sunday’s match at Alabama marked UT’s final regular season road match of the year. The Vols finish the regular season 6-1 on the road including a 4-1 mark in the SEC. The 4-1 record this year is UT’s best road record in conference since the 2000 team went 5-0 on their way to the conference championship. In Winterbotham’s two seasons, UT is 7-3 on the road in conference play.
The Vols return to action Friday when they host 35th-ranked Vanderbilt (11-6, 3-5 SEC) at 2 p.m. at the UT Outdoor Varsity Courts. All matches at the University of Tennessee are free to the public. Live scoring for the match can be found at UTsports.com.
No. 12 Tennessee 5 No. 24 Alabama 1
|1.||No. 117 Kaden Hensel (UT)||def.||No. 85 Saketh Myneni (UA)||2-6, 7-5, 6-4|
|2.||No. 118 Boris Conkic (UT)||tied||No. 88 Mat Thibaudeau (UA)||7-6(8), 2-6, 1-1 unf.|
|3.||Davey Sandgren (UT)||def.||Sammy Struyf (UA)||6-3, 2-6, 6-4|
|4.||Matteo Fago (UT)||def.||Javier Bes (UA)||6-0, 6-4|
|5.||Jeremy Tweedt (UT)||def.||Daniel Buikema (UA)||6-2, 6-2|
|6.||Michael Jung (UA)||def.||Matt Brewer (UT)||6-4, 6-4|
|Order of finish: 5,4,6,1,3|
|1.||No. 17 Hensel/Smith (UT)||def.||No. 12 Buikema/Thibaudeau (UA)||8-6|
|2.||Felsenthal/Myneni (UA)||def.||Sandgren/Tweedt (UT)||8-4|
|3.||Conkic/Fago (UT)||def.||Bes/Struyf (UA)||8-4|
|Order of finish: 2,3,1|