March 31, 2011
The fourth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers are hitting the road for their third trip in four weeks when they face Mississippi State and Mississippi in SEC play.
The Vols' match against 32nd-ranked Mississippi State starts Friday at 2 p.m. Central. Tennessee then plays 25th-ranked Mississippi on Sunday at 1 p.m. Central. A live blog of both matches will be available at UTSports.com.
For news and notes on Tennessee (16-2, 6-0 SEC) heading into the weekend:
Tennessee is coming off a 4-3 victory on the road against LSU last week. After winning the doubles point, the Vols got all three singles wins in straight sets from the top half of the lineup. Sophomore Rhyne Williams clinched the victory by defeating Neal Skupski 6-4, 7-6 (4) on court 2.
Vols Ranked Fourth
The Vols slid two spots to fourth in the ITA national rankings Tuesday, their lowest ranking since April 2010 when they experienced a similar decline in the computer rankings midway through the SEC season, falling to fourth before eventually climbing back to second.
Individually, five Vols are ranked in the top 125. Williams still leads the way at No. 4, followed by senior John-Patrick Smith at No. 12, sophomore Tennys Sandgren at No. 48, senior Matteo Fago at No. 56 and senior Boris Conkic at No. 121.
Conkic and Smith retained their top national doubles ranking for the third ranking period thanks to five wins against opponents ranked in the top 12. Sandgren and Williams, who have played at the No. 2 position much of the season, are ranked 61st nationally.
The Conference Race
The Vols and ninth-ranked Georgia are the only two teams remaining with an unbeaten 6-0 record entering the Mississippi State. Georgia faces Mississippi on the road Friday.
Tennessee, the 2010 SEC regular-season and tournament champion, is aiming for its first back-to-back titles in program history.
Scouting Mississippi State
In their last time out on the courts, the Bulldogs (9-6, 4-2) lost a heartbreaker 4-3 at home against Florida.
Mississippi State has three players in the national singles rankings: George Coupland at No. 76, Louis Cant at No. 77 and Artem Ilyushin at No. 94. Ilyushin is slated to play at the top of Mississippi State's lineup this weekend. The Bulldogs do not have any doubles pairings currently ranked.
When Last We Met
The Vols lost the doubles point just one time in 2010, and it came against Mississippi State. Once singles started, the Vols took command quickly and eventually won 5-2 in Knoxville.
14 & Counting
Sandgren enters Saturday's match with a team-best 14-match winning streak, one shy of his career best. He has been undefeated in dual matches this season and has won his last nine matches in straight sets. Thanks to his 6-0 start in conference play this season, he now has a perfect 16-0 career record against the SEC.
Smith, who leads the Vols with 33 wins, has won his last seven at the top of the Vols' lineup. He is a combined 14-1 the last two years at the No. 1 position in SEC play.
Going for 30
Williams has a 29-7 record heading into the weekend trip, putting him just one win shy of his second 30-win season in his two years as a Vol. He won 41 matches last season on his way to earning All-America and first-team All-SEC honors. He has a 7-0 record since moving down to the No. 2 position in the lineup.
Fago has 95 career singles victories thanks to a 23-10 start to his final season. Additionally, the senior from Ceprano, Italy, is the only Vol with at least 30 career SEC dual match victories. He has a 31-6 record over his four seasons wearing Orange and White.
Two current Vols already have 100 career wins: Smith (143) and Conkic (102). Tennessee has never had three active teammates with at least 100 wins.
2 from 2
Smith is two victories away from tying Peter Handoyo (1999-2002) for second on the Vols' career singles wins list. Smith, who has been playing at the top of the lineup the last three weeks, has a 143-40 career record with 87 of those wins coming against ranked opponents.
Conkic and Smith, ranked No. 1 nationally, have won 13 consecutive matches together at the top of the Vols' lineup. They are 17-1 this spring and 22-1 as a pairing over the last two years. Individually, Smith is the UT career doubles leader with 136 victories and Conkic has 105.
Tennessee has won the doubles point in 15 of 18 matches.