Using senior day as inspiration, Tennessee's men's tennis team played with poise and intensity to defeat No. 9-ranked Georgia 5-2 Saturday afternoon at UT's Varsity Courts. With the win, the No. 16-ranked Volunteers (12-6, 5-4 SEC) improve to 3-0 at home this season against top-10 teams.
"(Saturday) was a great day for our team," UT coach Michael Fancutt said. "We're just getting better and better each week."
Tennessee seniors Wade Orr and Simon Rea both contributed to Saturday's winning effort. Orr netted wins in singles and doubles, and Rea had a hand in upsetting the nation's No. 3-ranked doubles team before dropping a heartbreaking singles match to the nation's No. 15-ranked player.
Vols junior Mark Dietrich clinched the victory for UT by edging Bulldogs freshman Matic Omerzel in straight sets at the No. 3 singles position. Prior to Saturday's match, Dietrich had not played at a position higher than No. 4 singles since returning from a broken leg suffered last September. The Memphis native owns an impressive 9-3 singles mark since returning to the Tennessee singles lineup Feb. 20.
The doubles portion of Saturday's match endured two brief rain delays before the first contest was decided. Orr and Dietrich struck first by defeating Georgia's Ricardo Gonzalez and Omerzel 8-3 at the No. 3 position. After a third weather delay, Tennessee's freshmen team of Ockie Oosthuizen and Ben Rogers clinched the doubles point by beating UGA's Strahinja Bobusic and Matias Ormaza at the No. 2 spot.
At the No. 1 position, UT's No. 17-ranked team of Rea and junior Damien Spizzo trailed UGA's No. 3-ranked pairing of Bo Hodge and John Isner by a score of 7-6. With the Bulldogs team down 40-love, Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz elected to have his tandem forfeit the match, as Isner was struggling with a back injury.
By claiming the doubles point for the 15th time in 18 dual matches this season, the Vols took a 1-0 lead into singles play against the SEC Eastern Division champions.
Isner, the No. 63-ranked collegiate singles player in the nation, was slated to play No. 2 singles for the Bulldogs but withdrew from singles competition. Thus, Georgia's Nos. 3-6 players all moved up one spot in the lineup, and junior Stephan Timu was inserted at the No. 6 position.
Vols fresman Kiril Tcherveniachki posted a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Gonzalez at the No. 5 position to extend Tennessee's lead to 2-0 and improve his team-best singles winning percentage to .750. The New Zealander owns a 6-3 record against SEC opponents this season.
Orr, ranked No. 105 in the ITA's national singles rankings, then beat Timu 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 6 spot.
After Dietrich's match-clinching victory, Spizzo retired from his No. 4 singles match after splitting sets with Bobusic.
At the No. 2 slot, Oosthuizen and Ormaza also split sets. Since the overall team outcome had already been decided, the players contested a super-tiebreaker in place of a full third set. Oosthuizen, ranked No. 114 in the nation, claimed an 8-6 victory in the tiebreaker to put Tennessee ahead 5-1.
In the last remaining singles contest, No. 33-ranked Rea and No. 15-ranked UGA senior Bo Hodge needed a third set to decide their battle at the No. 1 position. Rea jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the final stanza, but Hodge fought back post a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(2) win.
Georgia slips to 14-4 (6-3) with the loss. The Bulldogs have lost each of their last four matches in Knoxville.
With Saturday's contest marking the end of a five-match homestand for Tennessee, the Vols close out the regular season on the road next weekend. UT visits Auburn (7-10, 2-6) Friday before traveling to Alabama (10-10, 2-6) Sunday.