May 12, 2011
The third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers' journey in the NCAA Tennis Championships starts Friday when they host Radford in the opening round at Barksdale Stadium.
The match is set for 1 p.m. Eastern time and will follow the first-round match between Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech at 10 a.m. The winners of the two matches face each other Saturday at 3 p.m.
Admission for the day-long session is $5 for adults and $3 for students.
A live blog and game-by-game scoring of both matches will be available at UTSports.com. The tournament information page is located here: NCAA Championships: First and Second Rounds
For news and notes heading into the opening weekend:
In the First Round
The Vols, who reached the finals of the NCAAs last season, are 11-2 all time in the round of the 64 and have hosted the first and second rounds eight times since 1999. At home, Tennessee is 8-0 in opening matches.
Head Coach Sam Winterbotham has now led the Vols to an NCAA appearance all five seasons of his tenure at Tennessee. He has a 10-4 record in those matches, and the Vols have reached at least the round of 16 the last three years.
Four Vols Bound for NCAA Individuals
The participant list for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships were released last week, and four Vols will be participating at the conclusion of the team event.
Sophomore Rhyne Williams is seeded fourth in the 64-player singles draw, and senior John-Patrick Smith is slotted as a 9-16 seed. Sophomore Tennys Sandgren will make his collegiate national tournament debut after receiving an at-large invitation.
Conkic and Smith, the nation's top-ranked duo since March 1, received the No. 1 seed in doubles. Smith reached the doubles finals the last two years with Davey Sandgren.
History in the Making
Because Smith is seeded in both the singles and doubles tournaments, he has met the All-America qualifications in both categories. Not only will he become Tennessee's first four-time ITA All-America, but he will also earn the recognition as being just the second player in the history of college tennis to be named a four-time singles and doubles All-America.
Only Rick Leach, who lettered for Southern California from 1984-87, was named a singles and doubles All-America all four years of his career. He later went on to be the world No. 1 in doubles.
The Highlanders punched their ticket to the NCAA Championships in exciting fashion, beating Winthrop 4-3 in the finals of the Big South Conference Championships to get the automatic qualifying bid. Radford enters Saturday's match on an 18-match winning streak.
The team's top player, Ivan Salec, is headed to the NCAA Singles Championship as the representative of the Big South. He is currently ranked No. 124.
The Vols and Radford are meeting for the first time Saturday. Last season, the Vols opened the NCAA Championships by taking on the 2010 Big South champion, Winthrop, winning 4-0.
Back-to-Back (Part I)
The Vols clinched consecutive SEC regular-season titles for the first time program history this season, tying Georgia for the honors by defeating the Bulldogs 4-3 on the road in the conference finale. The Vols lost in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, losing 4-2 to host and eventual champion, Florida.
Back-to-Back (Part II)
Smith also went back to back when it came to conference awards, becoming the first Vol to earn back-to-back SEC Player of the Year honors. Only one individual in conference history has won multiple SEC Player of the Year accolades, and that was current touring pro John Isner, who won the award at Georgia in 2006 and 2007.
On Thursday, Smith collected another award: ITA Ohio Valley Region Senior of the Year.
Smith and Conkic both picked up their fourth All-SEC honors of their careers, joining very select company. Only four other Vols have earned All-SEC every year: Shelby Cannon (1985-88), Peter Handoyo (1999-2002), Byron Talbot (1985-88) and Paul Van Min (1972-75).
Williams and Sandgren, both sophomores, were named All-SEC for the second year.
Two Away (Part I)
Entering the final event of his career, Smith still has some records to chase. He has 148 career singles wins, putting him just two away from the 150-win milestone. The senior from Townsville, Australia, ranks second on UT's singles wins list, trailing just Byron Talbot, who won 161 times from 1985-88.
Smith is the Vols' career leader with 142 doubles wins, giving him 290 combined singles and doubles victories. Talbot won a combined 292 wins, putting Smith just a pair of victories away from tying him for the UT career lead.
Two Away (Part II)
Fago has 98 singles victories heading into Friday, and he will try to join Smith and Conkic in the fairly exclusive 100-win club. Only eight Vols have reached 100 wins, and two of them are still in uniform.
The Vols have never have never boasted three active teammates with at least 100 singles wins.
Sandgren and Williams have picked up steam in doubles as the season has progressed. They enter the NCAA Championships with a 6-match winning streak at the No. 2 position and have an 18-4 record.
Conkic and Smith, the nation's top-ranked duo, had their 17-match winning streak snapped in the regular-season finale but won two matches at the SEC Championships to improve to 23-2 this spring.
A Look at 2010
Last year, the Vols reached the final of the NCAA Championships for the third time in program history, falling to Southern California 4-2 in the title match.
Williams was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team for No. 3 singles. Fago and Edward Jones were selected as the top No. 3 doubles team.
For a match-by-match look at the 2010 run:
Regional Site: Knoxville
R64: Tennessee (2) def. Winthrop, 4-0
R32: Tennessee (2) def. ETSU, 4-1
Championship Site: Athens, Ga.
R16: Tennessee (2) def. Louisville (15), 4-0
QF: Tennessee (2) def. Baylor (7), 4-0
SF: Tennessee (2) def. Georgia (11), 4-1
F: Southern Cal. (5) def. Tennessee (2), 4-2
NCAA Tennis Championships: First and Second Rounds
Friday, May 13
Men's First Round
Vanderbilt vs. Virginia Tech, 10 a.m.
Tennessee vs. Radford, 1 p.m.
Women's First Round
Vanderbilt vs. Winthrop, 9 a.m.
Tennessee vs. College of Charleston, noon
Men's Second Round
Vanderbilt/Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee/Radford, 3 p.m.
Women's Second Round
Vanderbilt/Winthrop vs. Tennessee/College of Charleston, noon