In their biggest test at home so far this season, the second-ranked Tennessee Volunteers did not disappoint.
The Vols seized early leads in both singles and doubles Sunday to earn their third win over a top 10 team this year, defeating sixth-ranked Kentucky 6-1 at Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.
Senior Davey Sandgren and junior John-Patrick Smith secured the doubles point on a tiebreaker at the No. 1 position. A few hours later, freshman Rhyne Williams clinched the win 4-0 with a three-set victory before the teams played out the match.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham liked what he saw in the Vols’ 6-1 victory over No. 27 Vanderbilt on Friday, and he was again impressed with his team’s effort to maintain momentum Sunday against one of the highest-ranked programs in the country. The Vols (15-1, 4-0 SEC) had not faced a top 15 team since a month ago at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
“I really felt that we’ve taken another step forward as a team,” Winterbotham said. “On Friday, I was really impressed by our preparedness in the match against Vandy, and how we came out in both singles and doubles. We were ready, and we jumped on them right away.
“I was interested to see how we were going to do in this match today because there’s a lot more nerves associated with this match, and they did a fantastic job.”
Williams and junior Boris Conkic got the ball rolling for the Vols in doubles, winning their 13th consecutive match with a quick 8-2 victory over Alberto Gonzalez and Alex Lambropoulos at the No. 2 position. Williams and Conkic, ranked fifth, improved to 22-2 this season.
The remaining doubles matches took much longer. Junior Matteo Fago and freshman Edward Jones fell down a break late and lost 9-7 at No. 3, putting the fate of the doubles point on court 1.
Sandgren and Smith stayed on serve with their opponents, 15th-ranked Eric Quigley and Brad Cox, so the match went into a tiebreaker. With the home crowd backing them, second-ranked Sandgren and Smith jumped out to a 5-1 lead and won the tiebreaker 7-2 to take the match and give the Vols a 1-0 lead.
In singles, Smith was the first to finish for the Vols by winning his fourth match against a top 10 opponent this season. Smith, currently ranked fourth, picked up early breaks in both sets and defeated No. 8 Quigley 6-3, 6-1.
It took the Vols quite a while to earn their final two points because three of the first four matches went into a third set. Freshman Tennys Sandgren earned a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory against Anthony Rossi at the No. 4 position to put the Vols ahead 3-0.
Williams, who had suffered a tough loss against Vanderbilt on Friday, bounced back with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 win over Cox to clinch the win for Tennessee. Williams, a Knoxville native, improved to 25-6 this season.
Kentucky (11-6, 2-2) earned its lone point of the day when Conkic retired in the third set against Alex Musialek at the No. 2 position, snapping a 12-match SEC winning streak.
The Vols later picked up straight set wins from senior Matt Brewer at No. 5 and Fago and No. 6. As a freshman, Fago became the first Vol in 18 years to finish the SEC season 11-0. He has started conference play with a team-best 4-0 record.
Tennessee stays at home for one SEC match next weekend, hosting LSU on Sunday at 1 p.m.