May 2, 2012
For the first time in program history, the Tennessee Volunteers are sending two freshmen to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships.
The NCAA released the acceptance list Wednesday, and freshman Mikelis Libietis received an at-large bid for the 64-player singles tournament. He and redshirt freshman Hunter Reese also earned a spot in the 32-team doubles event.
The individual championships run May 23-28 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., starting the day after the team champions have been crowned. The draws for the singles and doubles tournaments will not be released until May 22.
Libietis, who has played every match this season at No. 1 singles and doubles, is currently ranked 30th nationally and has a team-leading 20-13 record. The native of Priekuli, Latvia, is just the seventh freshman in program history to start a match at the top of the lineup and has nine ranked wins this spring.
Defending champion Steve Johnson of Southern California is the No. 1 seed in the tournament. He beat former Vol Rhyne Williams in the title match last season.
In doubles, Libietis and Reese are currently ranked 12th with a 22-10 overall record. The freshman duo have played every team match together this season and have been ranked as high as seventh nationally. They are believed to be the first all-freshman Tennessee pair to reach the top 10.
Reese missed the cutoff for the singles tournament, but he picked up steam as the season progressed and eventually moved up to the No. 2 position in the lineup. He has been ranked as high as 74th and has a 19-13 record with a team-leading 14 wins in dual matches.
The Vols have been particularly successful in the NCAA Championships in recent years, boasting a finalist in singles or doubles each of the last four years. John-Patrick Smith made the singles title match as a freshman in 2008 and reached the doubles finals with Davey Sandgren in 2009 and 2010. Williams was a singles finalist last year when the tournament was in Palo Alto, Calif.
The 16th-ranked Vols (14-13) begin NCAA team play May 12 against UNC Wilmington in Chapel Hill, N.C.