Tennessee won its fifth SEC match of the season over No. 15 Auburn 4-3 Friday at the UT Varsity Courts. The match was close until the end, with Tennessee (12-3, 5-1 SEC) overcoming a 2-0 deficit to take the victory.
This was a great performance by a team with three guys that have serious injuries (Mario Toledo with a bone spur, Peter Handoyo with a pulled abdominal muscle and Adam Carey with a lower back injury), said Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt. I am very proud of my guys and I hope we can carry this momentum into the rest of the season.
This was just a really exciting victory, plus it keeps us in the race for the SEC crown.
Auburn earned the doubles point, starting with a win by Mark Kovacks and Rameez Junaid in the No. 2 match over Tennessee's 12th-ranked tandem of Mark Parsons and Carey 9-8(0). Tennessee's duo of Toledo and Paul Podbury started off well against Auburn's fourth-ranked tandem of George Matijasevic and Tiago Ruffoni, taking a commanding 7-4 lead in a match that could have clinched the doubles point for the Vols. However, the Auburn pair came back and took a hard-fought 9-7 victory to gain the doubles point for the Tigers.
Things also started off roughly for the Vols in singles, as No. 33 Handoyo dropped his first match in his last nine outings to Auburn's Junaid 6-0, 6-2. Handoyo has played his last three matches with a pulled abdominal muscle which has forced him to serve underhanded.
Tennessee would not wait long to get in the scoring column as Freshman Simon Rea won easily over Auburn's Raitis Tukans in the No. 6 match 6-1, 6-2. Rea was followed up by No. 74 Podbury, who tied the match score up at two with a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over Estevam Strecker in the No. 5 match.
Tennessee's next two points would be their toughest of the day as both No. 80 Parsons and No. 62 Toledo were taken to three sets before pulling out victories. Parsons started out well taking the first set 6-1, before dropping the second set 6-4 to Auburn's No. 83 Matijasevic. Parsons, however, took the final set 6-3 for the win.
I feel I am starting to gain a little confidence, Parsons said. I was able to play my game and win the match, so hopefully this will be a good stepping stone in building my confidence back up for the end of the season.
Toledo's match would prove to be the match of the day, as he came back from down 7-5, 3-0 to upend Auburn's Mark Kovacks 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the No. 4 match. The 62nd-ranked Toledo's win also clinched the victory for the Vols and kept them on track for their SEC-showdown with No. 5 Georgia Sunday in Athens.
I saw everybody else out there fighting and I just said to myself it was time to turn it around and win this match, Toledo said. It was a great fight by the whole team today and we are still right in the thick of the SEC race. Hopefully we can go to Athens this weekend and play with the fire we showed today.
The Vols traveled to Athens Sunday for a match against No. 5 Georgia. Results were not available at press time.