After only going 1-2 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Nationals two weeks ago, the Tennessee men's tennis team hoped to rebound from their disappointing performance in Houston, Texas, against the defending SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs last Sunday at Barksdale Stadium.
The Vols' chances of starting off strong in SEC play looked promising at first.
Juniors Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese won their doubles match on court one, and the other two Vols' doubles teams threatened to do the same on courts two and three.
The Bulldogs, however, had other plans.
The Georgia doubles teams came from behind to force a tie-breaker on courts two and three and ended up winning both matches, stealing the doubles point from UT.
Losing the doubles point ultimately proved to be the Vols' doom as Georgia then dominated the singles matches, winning on courts one, five and six and clinching a 4-0 victory.
While Georgia may have swept Tennessee on Sunday, the match was closer than the score indicated, with the doubles point tipping the outcome into Georgia's favor.
"There was a huge opportunity that went begging by not winning that doubles point," Tennessee senior Jarryd Chaplin said, "not for the fact that it was one point, (but) it was the momentum that comes with winning that doubles point."
His teammate Reese agreed with him regarding the importance of the doubles point.
"Even if we just get one of those tie-breakers, that gives us the doubles point, puts us 1-0 up, (and) it's a whole different mindset in the locker room," Reese said. "It goes from defense to offense, just a 180 flip."
The loss to Georgia was especially painful to Reese, a Georgia native.
"There is not a team that I would rather beat," Reese said. "If we went 0-and however many matches we play and won against Georgia, I would be pretty ecstatic after that match. So yeah, it sucks losing to Georgia."
The Vols do not have any time to brood over the loss, however, as they face a busy schedule this week. They host non-conference foe Georgia Tech today and then return to conference play against Mississippi and Mississippi State on Friday and Sunday.
Chaplin – Tennessee's senior team leader – said he hopes he doesn't have to say much to motivate his teammates for the upcoming matches.
"I hope that I don't have to say too much," Chaplin said. "I hope it hurts enough for changes to be made after today because that whole match was an opportunity that went missing. I would be very happy if I don't have to say too much.
"It all starts with practice tomorrow morning and how the guys respond to that and on Tuesday I hope there is more collective effort. Even if the doubles point doesn't go our way, it can't affect the outcome of the match too much."