For the third time this season, Tennessee's men's tennis team fell short of an SEC win.
The No. 6 Volunteers lost 4-3 to the No. 35 Florida Gators on Sunday at Barksdale Stadium.
The Vols started off shaky, losing the doubles' point and starting the match with a score of 0-1 in favor of Florida. The No. 17 doubles team, Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, came out with the lone doubles win against Florida, defeating Bob van Overbeek and Stephane Piro, 8-5.
No. 115 ranked Brandon Fickey came off the courts first with a devastating 0-6, 4-6 loss against Piro. Within minutes of his singles match, Fickey suffered an ankle injury that strongly affected his performance for the remainder of the first set.
He started the second set strong with a 3-0 lead against Piro, making a small comeback from his first set shutout. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, and Piro came back even stronger with a 6-4 second set win, making Florida's score 2-0.
"I'm proud of Brandon that he kept fighting," head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "College athletics, things don't always go your way."
Shortly after, Florida's Billy Federhofer defeated Jarryd Chaplin 6-4, 6-4, earning Florida a strong three-point lead.
"We've got to try and figure out how to get this team to understand they have to play to win," Winterbotham said. "That's our challenge right now."
Edward Jones earned the first victory of the match for Tennessee, defeating Gordon Watson with a score of 7-5, 6-2.
No. 6 singles player Mikelis Libietis won 7-6, 6-3 in a tough match against No. 75 Florent Diep. Libietis struggled in the first set, but ultimately won 7-4 in a tie-breaker. The sophomore found his momentum in the second set and earned Tennessee its second point.
No. 29 Hunter Reese tied the score 3-3 with his exciting win against No. 123 van Overbeek. He earned a quick first set 6-2 win. In the second set, he struggled with a steady back and forth score. Van Overbeek later pulled out the win, 7-5. After the tough battle of the second set, Reese turned around and came back strong with 6-0 shutout, earning the redshirt sophomore the win.
In the last match of the game, John Collins was defeated by Luke Johnson in a nail-biting three-set match. Collins won the first set 6-4. The second set was sent into a tie-breaker where Johnson came out victorious, making the game score 1-1.
"We play tight and John Collins gets his third overrule over there on a ball that was on the line and he wants the ball to out," Winterbotham said regarding Collins' match. "That swung the momentum of that match back in their favor because we're playing tight."
In the last set, the scores fluctuated back and forth until 5-5 when the momentum changed. Johnson would take the next two games, winning the set and winning the overall match.
"We lost that match because we did not play to win," Winterbotham added about the overall match. "This is their next challenge. Once they overcome this challenge, we're going to be a force."
The members of the team declined to comment on the loss.
The Vols play away next weekend against No. 10 Kentucky.