Tennessee's men's tennis team is undefeated no more.
No. 6 Tennessee fell to No. 50 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. in their first road match of the spring season after starting 6-0. The loss dropped them eight spots in the new ITA rankings to No. 14.
Head coach Sam Winterbotham attributed the loss to the team's lack of humility.
"Being humble is a very, very important part of being a good, successful person," Winterbotham said. "Our guys weren't humble. They didn't give people the respect that they deserved. They think that they are better than people because they are ranked higher."
Winterbotham was unhappy with his team's ability to work through adversity.
"When everything started going wrong, they started blaming everybody and everything," Winterbotham said. "(They said) 'this shouldn't happen to me.' If they were humble out there, they would understand that these sort of things happen all the time."
Junior Brandon Fickey agreed with his coach's assessment of their performance.
"If you looked out on the court, we weren't really playing as a team," Fickey said. "We took the rankings for granted, and we walked in there thinking we were going to win."
For Winterbotham, playing on the road was not at fault for the loss.
"The performance against Oklahoma State was very poor for many reasons," Winterbotham said. "I don't think you can necessarily blame it just on being on the road. What we recognized is that it really is important for them to be tested in environments."
Two days after playing Oklahoma State, Tennessee was in danger of losing their second match in a row.
In their match against No. 30 Tulsa, the score was tied 3-3 with only one man left on the court for each team.For Tennessee, that man was Fickey.
Fickey delivered under pressure in a hostile environment, securing victory for the Vols in the third set of his match to beat Tulsa's Carlos Bautista – the No. 71 ranked player in the country – 6-4, 5-6 (3), 6-4.
Fickey drew inspiration from his teammates when he realized their hopes rested on his shoulders.
"I was a little nervous," Fickey said. "I looked at (my teammates), and they inspired me. I had been in that situation before, and I just drew on those experiences."
Winterbotham praised Fickey for his performance, however he was not satisfied with his team's performance as a whole."We didn't play very well in a large portion of the match," Winterbotham said. "We put it on one person's shoulders, basically ... What was great about it, and it was great, was how Brandon Fickey handled that situation. He was fantastic."
Tennessee's next matches are at home this weekend against No. 13 Duke and No. 20 Wake Forest.
Despite the sub-par performances, Winterbotham remains confident in his team.
"I have a tremendous amount of confidence in this team," Winterbotham said. "I think I have more confidence in what this team is capable of than they do."
Winterbotham has the team focused on itself rather than their highly rated opponents.
"We've got enough to focus on within our program, and that's what we're doing right now," Winterbotham said. "We're going to get it right. The hope is that it starts this weekend."