In the biggest moment of the 2012-13 season for Tennessee's men's tennis team, sophomore Brandon Fickey found himself in a familiar position.
With a spot in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 on the line against Clemson on May 11, Fickey was the only Vol still on the court as the teams were knotted up at 3-3. His battle with Gerardo Meza, then entering its third set, would decide whose national title hopes stayed alive.
Earlier in the season against Wake Forest, Fickey found himself in that same exact scenario. With both teams tied at 3-3, the entire match came down to his tennis racket. He would go down 5-3 in the third set before rallying to give his team the win.
Fickey said that experience from earlier in the season kept him from thinking about the moment's magnitude.
"It really didn't cross my mind that the season would've been over or not," Fickey told The Daily Beacon. "I was just taking it point-by-point, playing the match and taking it for what it was worth."
UT players lined up on the out-of-bounds line next to Fickey's court with their arms draped around each other, anxiously waiting for a moment that wasn't hardly set in stone.
"I was just enjoying the moment," Fickey said. "We had a pretty good crowd, too, the whole inside was pretty electrifying."
As if that moment wasn't big enough, it was his first match back since a shoulder injury that derailed his 0-7 SEC season and kept him out more than a month. A cortisone shot allowed Fickey to return for the NCAAs, to perform in a moment that an entire season depended on.
Fickey would go down 2-0 in the third and final set before taking off. His 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4 victory ended Clemson's season.
"I like when the spotlight is on a little bit," Fickey said. "I enjoy that, and I think that helped me get through."
The Vols would move on to beat SEC foe Mississippi State before losing to eventual national champion Virginia in the quarterfinals.
"We talk about being 'Tennessee tough,' and I think we've got a guy over there in Brandon Fickey who epitomizes that," UT head coach Sam Winterbotham said after the Clemson win. "It had been a month out (since he last played), his shoulder has bothered him the whole year, and he comes through when we needed it the most."
A native of Knoxville, Tenn. and graduate of Webb School, Fickey follows in the footsteps of royalty. Former Vol Rhyne Williams, also from Knoxville, was the nation's top-ranked player and now competes on the Grand Slam circuit at events like Wimbledon and the French Open.
"Rhyne and Taylor Patrick had a big influence on my decision to come (to UT),"Just seeing how well they did and how they thrived in the program. How they loved wearing the orange, that was a big selling point to me."
Fickey admitted it takes a reality check every now and then when he sees the success that Williams and John-Patrick Smith are having in their professional careers.
"It's kind of surreal. One day you're practicing with them and joking around, then the next day they're making pretty good money on the major level with Grand Slams," Fickey said. "So it's very cool that they're doing well."
After a promising 2012-13 campaign, the Vols look to continue as the top-ranked men's team on UT's campus. But next season, like seasons' past, is all about winning it all.
"We always label that as our goal, winning the national championship, and we don't really want to settle for less," Fickey said. "We've got our top four back, and some great players coming in. We have to set the bar high and we're going to look to do good things."