May 3, 2010
The second-ranked Tennessee Volunteers have already secured a position in the NCAA Championships. But now the questions remain: what seed and which opponent?
Tennessee (26-1) won the SEC Tournament by defeating Florida 4-0 on April 25 to earn the conference's automatic berth into the field of 64. The Vols also captured the SEC regular-season title with a perfect 11-0 record, marking the first time Tennessee has gone undefeated in conference since 1990.
The next step in the Vols' season will be revealed Tuesday when the NCAA Championship tennis draw for men and women is televised on ESPNews from 5-6 p.m. Eastern.
The Vols will likely be one of 16 schools to host the first two rounds, as they have the last two seasons. Tennessee has hosted the first two rounds seven times since 1999 and is 13-1 in those matches. Last season, the Vols defeated East Tennessee State 4-0 in the first round and Duke 4-1 in the round of 32.
The last ITA national computer team rankings were released April 27, and Tennessee trailed top-ranked Virginia by the slimmest of margins: .04. Virginia also earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships by winning the ACC Tournament. Texas, Ohio State and Southern California round out the top five in the rankings.
John-Patrick Smith has led the Vols all season at the top of the singles and doubles lineups for the second year. The junior from Townsville, Australia, is currently ranked No. 1 in singles with a 38-6 record. Not only that, but Smith and senior Davey Sandgren are ranked second in doubles.
The hardware has started to pile up for Smith this season. He was named SEC Player of the Year last week and was picked up first-team All-SEC honors for the third time in his career. He logged his 100th career win in both singles and doubles. In October, he became the third player in history to win the singles and doubles titles at the ITA All-American Championships.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham has led the Vols to an 89-20 record the last four seasons and was named SEC Coach of the Year for a second time.
Rhyne Williams gave the Vols a clean sweep of the individual postseason conference awards when he was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Smith, Williams, Davey Sandgren and junior Boris Conkic earned first-team All-SEC honors. Freshman Tennys Sandgren, who joined the team in January, was named second-team All-SEC.
The NCAA Championship draws for singles and doubles will be released Wednesday online. Smith and Davey Sandgren reached the finals in the doubles tournament last year. Smith was also a finalist in singles as a freshman in 2008.