Tennessee Downs Florida to Advance to Championship
OXFORD, Miss. -- The Tennessee Volunteers are back in the finals of the SEC Men's Tennis Tournament.
With closely contested play across the courts, the seventh-ranked Vols finished out a tight singles competition to beat No. 14 Florida 4-2 in the opening semifinal Saturday to return to the title match for the first time since winning in 2010.
The Vols (23-7) will take on either Georgia or Texas A&M on Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern.
"It was a team effort," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We had players fighting, one through six, three doubles teams. I think our team is very close. They care for each other and they will play for each other all day long. Today we did that."
The Vols won three of six first sets and made good on all three: Mikelis Libietis at No. 1, Hunter Reese at No. 2 and Edward Jones at No. 5.
Reese and Jones finished within seconds of each other. Reese held out a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Florent Diep. Then Jones capitalized on his sixth match point, breaking Billy Federhofer to win 7-5, 6-4.
"I'm just really proud," Winterobtham said. "They went for their shots there at the end. In that kind of atmosphere, to see a team doing that and being fearless is wonderful."
The Vols are now playing in the SEC finals for the eighth time since 1990. During Winterbotham's seven years at Tennessee, the Vols have now reached the title match three times. The Vols are going for their fourth SEC Tournament title, having won in 1990, 2002 and 2010.
Tennessee had lost to Florida 4-3 in the regular-season meeting between the schools in Knoxville. One difference maker in that match was the doubles point. The Gators won the point in their first meeting, but in the Saturday rematch, Tennessee jumped out strong on all three courts.
Florida eventually won the first doubles match, when Michael Alford and Luke Johnson beat Taylor Patrick and Jarryd Chaplin 8-6, but Tennessee was rolling ahead on the top two courts.
Jones and John Collins won their second match of the tournament, beating Gordon Watson and Billy Federhofer 8-3. Libietis and Reese, ranked third nationally, rolled their season record to 11-0 with an 8-4 win against No. 37 Stephane Piro and Bob van Overbeek to clinch the doubles point for UT.
In singles, both teams won three sets each. Florida tied the match at 1-1 when Watson beat Patrick 7-5, 6-1 on court 6.
The Vols extended their lead to 2-1 courtesy of Libietis' team-leading 35th singles win of the year. He overcame a rocky start to the second set to get his point on the board for UT, beating Piro at the top of the lineup 6-2, 6-4.
Florida eventually tied the match at 2-2 when van Overbeek picked up momentum in the third set to defeat Jarryd Chaplin 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.
At that point, only three matches remained: Reese on court 2, Collins on court 4 and Jones on court 5.
Collins faced the end of his match and trailed by two breaks of serve multiple times in the third set, but he battled back to stay on court to ease the pressure on Reese and Jones.
Reese won an up and down first set against Diep in a tiebreaker. In the second set, he broke late and served out the victory 7-6 (5), 6-4 to put the Vols up 3-2.
As Reese served his final game, Jones was getting some chances to finish on nearby court 5. Tennessee and Florida players filled the seating area between the two courts, waiting for the finish on one side or the other.
Returning against Federhofer, Jones finally ended the match on his sixth match point of the game. Jones broke Federhofer late in both sets to win 7-5, 6-4 and assure the Vols another trip to the SEC final. It is the second such destination for the senior Vol; he played doubles in Tennessee's 4-0 win over Florida in the 2010 final.
Georgia Advances to Face Tennessee in Final
OXFORD, Miss. --- The top-seeded Georgia men’s tennis team got a third-set tiebreak victory from freshman Ben Wagland to lift Georgia to a 4-3 win over fourth-seeded and 12th-ranked Texas A&M Saturday in the semifinals of the SEC Championships at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The win moves the Bulldogs (21-4) into tomorrow’s final against second-seeded Tennessee set for 2 p.m. ET.
The Bulldogs will aim to sweep the SEC regular season and tournament titles for the seventh time in history and first since 2007.
“It was a very tough win,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “I thought they outplayed us and there were times I thought they were going to pull it out. Having said that, our guys fought hard and didn’t give up. We did what it took to win matches and found a way to get it done.”
Georgia won the doubles point to take an early 1-0 lead in the match. The Bulldogs got their first win of the day with an 8-3 win for Garrett Brasseaux and Nathan Pasha over 27th-ranked Harry Adams and Shane Vinsant at No. 2. The sixth-ranked team of Wagland and Hernus Pieters then posted an 8-3 win over No. 17 Ore and Jackson Withrow to seal the all-important point.
The Bulldogs would go on to win four first sets in singles to two for Texas A&M, but the Aggies rallied to force third sets on three of those courts. Georgia took a 2-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-4 win for freshman Austin Smith over Jordan Szabo at No. 5, but Texas A&M cut it to 2-1 as 81st-ranked Vinsant defeated Pieters 6-3, 6-1 at No. 4. It drew even at 2-2 as 26th-ranked Jeremy Efferding bested No. 6 KU Singh 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 at the top spot, and Texas A&M took its first lead of the day at 3-2 as No. 120 Harry Adams posted a 7-5, 6-4 win over Pasha at No. 3.
That left just Wagland and Brasseaux on court for Georgia, and the junior would turn in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Behzad Minavi at No. 6 to tie it again at 3-3. Meanwhile, Wagland was already in the third-set tiebreaker with Ore on court two to decide it and the rookie delivered, securing the 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(6), win to give Georgia the 4-3 victory and the place in the final. It was the team-high seventh clinch for Wagland.
Georgia is now on a 12-match winning streak, its longest since 2011, and has won 16 of its last 17 matches. The Bulldogs are gunning for their league-leading ninth SEC Tournament crown and second in a row. It will mark the team’s 15th appearance in the final in 24 tries.
The Bulldogs and Volunteers will square off in tomorrow’s title match at 2 p.m. ET. Live scoring and the Georgia Tennis Live Chat will be available on Georgiadogs.com.