The No. 54-ranked Volunteer tennis team lost a close dual match to No. 29-ranked Virginia 4-3 Saturday afternoon at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.
"I was disappointed with the result today," Tennessee coach Michael Fancutt said. "I thought we were going to win for most of the match.
"I think we're only probably 50 percent of the team we're going to be during the championship part of the season."
In their first action as a doubles pairing, junior Damien Spizzo and freshman Ockie Oosthuizen built a commanding 6-0 lead over Virginia sophomores Rylan Rizza and Doug Stewart before posting an 8-1 victory.
It wasn't until more than a half hour later that Tennessee freshman Ben Rogers landed a well-placed overhead on the Virginia baseline to give him and partner Rea a doubles-clinching win over Marko Miklo and Stephen Rozek.
Junior Mark Dietrich returned to action for the Vols for the first time since suffering a broken right leg last September. Dietrich rejoined his old doubles partner Wade Orr and began the match by holding serve to give his team an early lead.
However, the Virginia team of Darrin Cohen and Nick Meythaler eventually won the contest 9-8.
"It was great to see Mark Dietrich back on the court," Fancutt said. "He was his usual loud, positive self. He played really well for the first half of the match, but then I think he got a little mentally and physically tired."
Taking a 1-0 match lead into singles competition, the Vols rushed out to early leads at each of the first four positions. Things would be far from easy for UT, however, as three of those contests went three sets.
Virginia evened the match at 1-1 when Rozek defeated Spizzo in three sets at No. 2 singles, but Rea reclaimed the match lead for Tennessee by defeating No. 25-ranked Stewart at the No. 1 position.
The Cavaliers took the next two points via wins from Rizza and Miklo at Nos. 3 and 4 singles, respectively.
Trailing 3-2, the Vols' hopes rested on the shoulders of two freshmen, Rogers and Kiril Tcherveniachki, playing in only their fourth collegiate dual match. Meythaler built a large first-set lead over Rogers, and went on to post a 6-1, 6-2 win to clinch the Virginia victory.
Tcherveniachki added UT's final point by defeating Cohen in straight sets.
Tennessee will now have a two-week break from competition before it returns to action for a Feb. 14 home dual match against William & Mary.