In the season opener against Memphis last spring, Hunter Reese was the last man standing on the courts with the match tied 3-3 and lost.

That won't happen again.

Today, Reese can still remember the feeling of losing, and still agonizes over specific points, something that has fueled him this offseason.

"I lost it and we lost the match and that was the worst feeling," Reese said. "It's something you can't even describe. I definitely use that as some motivation. I never want to be in that situation. If the match comes down to me, I want to be the guy who comes through for the team."

Reese is already seeing the benefits of his summer training. The redshirt sophomore from Kennesaw, Ga., matched his fall win total from last season, five, in one tournament played this season when he reached the finals of the Baylor HEB Intercollegiate before losing to No. 7 Mate Zsiga. The early season successes have left Reese feeling confident on the court, something that wasn't always the case last season.

"Hunter has proved he's one of the better players in the country right now," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said following the tournament. "He definitely improved from his first match this weekend to the last one. He played a very tough, close match in the final. He's managing his game better than he has in the past, which is great to see."

Reese comes into this season with lofty expectations, earning the No. 34 spot in the preseason individual polls. While some players might shy away from the added pressures of such a high spot, Reese is ready to meet the challenge of showing that he belongs with the elite of college tennis.

"I wasn't expecting to get ranked that high so it was a nice surprise," Reese said. "I definitely think other people will see that ranking and think of me as a guy they can come after. I'm not the underdog any more. It's a different mindset. I just need to embrace the fact (that) I can play high and relax and win."

Reese also holds a top 10 in doubles with newcomer John Collins, and the two have already teamed up to win the 2012 ITA National Collegiate Summer Circuit Championships. Collins transferred to Tennessee after Maryland disbanded its program and therefore can play immediately.

This week, Reese travels to Tulsa, Okla., for the ITA All-American Championships, but Reese is already focused on his main goal this season: winning an SEC title.

"We've got the guys, the talent, the work ethic to win the SEC," Reese said. "Hopefully we put ourselves in a position to make a run in the NCAAs. Individually, I just want to help my team reach that. I don't really care too much about individual accomplishments as much as I do the team."