Men's Tennis Falls to No. 16 Tennessee in the SEC Championship, 4-1
April 19, 2012
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The men's tennis team dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 16 Tennessee in the first round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship on Thursday. The loss puts the Crimson Tide at 10-15 overall, while the win brings the Volunteers' overall record to 14-12.
"I'm very proud of the way our guys fought all the way through," said Alabama head coach Billy Pate. "We had some chances to regain control of the match, but we allowed Tennessee to get a third point quickly and that makes it tough battling back from a 3-1 deficit. It's tough to beat a great team two times in 10 days, and we knew Tennessee would come at us hard. The three seniors gave a lot to this program and I'm disappointed for them that we couldn't advance today."
In doubles, Alabama would take two of the three matches to earn the first point of the afternoon. Michael Thompson and David Vieyra picked up a quick win for the Tide, topping Peter Nagovnak and Bryan Swartz 8-4 on court three. Next to finish was the matchup on court two, which was close throughout. In the end, it would be Tennessee's Jarryd Chaplin and Edward Jones winning in a tiebreaker, 9-8(5), over Carlos Taborga and Vikram Reddy. The doubles point would come down to the match of ranked opponents, pinning Alabama's 40th-ranked Ricky Doverspike and Jarryd Botha against the Vols' 10th-ranked duo of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese. Doverspike and Botha got out to a commanding start in the match, leading 4-0 before the Tennessee pair came back to win four straight games late in the match to take the 8-7 advantage. Alabama would hold serve in the next game to send it into a tiebreaker and would break in the first game of the breaker to take a 1-0 edge. With the match tied at 3-3, Doverspike and Botha would go on to win four of the last five points to not only take the match, but to also secure the doubles point for the Tide.
The Vols would win three singles matches within five minutes of each other to quickly take the 3-1 lead on the scoreboard and pull within one point of the team victory. Tennessee got its first point on court three as Brandon Fickey topped Botha, 6-4, 6-2, which was followed by a 6-1, 6-4 win on court two with 80th-ranked Reese beating No. 99 Daniil Proskura. The Vols' third point was awarded at the No. 4 position with Chaplin posting a 6-4, 6-1 victory against Reddy. The fourth point would take quite some time as two of the remaining three first set scores were 7-5, while the other went into a tiebreaker. The eventual clincher would come on court one with No. 32 Libietis outlasting No. 104 Doverspike, 7-6(5), 7-6(3). Doverspike got an early lead in the first set before Libietis was able to come back and even the frame. In the second, it was the reverse as Libietis broke for the 4-2 advantage before Doverspike broke back in the next game. The Tide senior was able to fight off match point to send the second set into a tiebreaker, but came up short in the end.
The remaining two matches were called once Tennessee collected its fourth point. Vieyra came back from a 5-0 deficit in his first set to win 7-5 over Jones, but Jones would come back to split sets, taking the second, 6-3. On court six, Thompson won the final two games for the 7-5 victory, but found himself down 5-3 to Taylor Patrick in the second.
"We came out with a lot of energy and really raced to leads in all three doubles," added Pate. "That helped us with momentum, but Tennessee really did a good job of battling back in singles. Though we were inconsistent through much of the spring, I was pleased how we finished the season as we played our best tennis these last three weeks. We're at the mercy of the rankings and the NCAA selection committee as far as qualifying for postseason, so it's a bit out of our hands. However, by finishing with a good push at the end it can help us. Unfortunately, we're not in control of that at this point, so we'll have to wait till May 1."