The fall season for the Vols tennis team is in full swing, and the results have been to their liking.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham and his Vol-netters had a successful stay recently at the ITA All-American Championships held in Tulsa, Okla. from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7. The nine-day collegiate event included five days of qualifying with the rest serving as singles and doubles championship matches.
Winterbotham took along seven of the team's eight players to play in the tournament that is considered the first of three "individual grand slams" in college tennis. It was UT's largest participation in the event since Winterbotham took over as head coach in 2006.
The Vols competed well in the tournament, as they had four players in the main draw. Sophomores Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese played in the singles main draw, while junior Jarryd Chaplin and senior John Collins made it to the main draw in doubles.
Libietis made his fall season debut for the Vols on the tennis court and found success right out of the gate.
Libietis, the team's highest nationally ranked player at No. 15 in singles, opened up his All-American Championships in strong style as he won two singles matchups against top-50 opponents (ranked no. 19 and 41) and also notched a doubles victory alongside Chaplin in his first day of play. He reached the third round of singles and the quarterfinals in doubles.
After he played in every match as a freshman at the No. 1 position last spring, Libietis is currently the Vols' highest nationally ranked player. The 6-foot-3 Latvian is currently ranked in career best in singles and is ranked No. 17 in doubles with Chaplin.
Redshirt sophomore Hunter Reese also fared well in the All-American and followed up his strong showing in the Baylor HEB Tournament the weekend before.
Despite losing in the first round of singles and doubles in the main draw he fought back. In the consolation draws, the draw where all the first round losers go, he kept his run alive by winning three straight matches and won the quarterfinals match against University of Texas's Daniel Whitehead, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2. The Kennesaw, Ga. native was taken down in the semifinals match when Ole Miss's Jonas Lutjen defeated Reese, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Chaplin also had a successful week in Tulsa. After coming off a doubles title with senior Ed Collins, the Australian native paired up with Libietis and won their first two matches. To advance to the quarterfinals of doubles, the pair defeated Texas's Chris Camillone and David Holiner 9-8. However, their tiebreaker luck ran to an end as they wound up on the other side of a 9-8 tiebreaker to North Florida's Moritz Buerchner and Norbert Nemcsek.
The Vol-netters returned back to action at home this past weekend in the second-annual Tennessee Fall Invitational. The event consisted of 15 schools.
UT continued its past success in the tournament after they won two singles and two doubles titles at the event last fall.
A pair of teammates took home the singles title for the Vols. In a rematch of last years top flight singles final, Libietis defended his title by defeating sophomore teammate Brandon Fickey, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday morning.
"It was different," Libietis said of facing Fickey in the finals this year compared to last year. "Everyone is better. He knew me better and what I was going to do and I knew what he was capable of. It was good to compete out there and play against my teammate."
Collins also took home a singles title, as he defeated Jones in the first two sets. It was Collins' first tournament playing at Barksdale Stadium, the Vols' home court.
"It was a very positive weekend," Collins said. "I was playing my kind of tennis. I was going after my serve and dictating with it. I wanted to win every point and be up in every game. That is something Sam (Winterbotham) told me about in my very first match, try to get up and try to get up in the game and let it go from there."
The duo of Fickey and Reese also brought home a doubles title for the Vols over the weekend.
The Vols will return to action this weekend in the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships, which will be held in Memphis.