May 8, 2009

Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Knoxville, Tenn. - The No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers received a tough test in their first round NCAA Men's Tournament matchup against the No. 61 East Tennessee State Buccaneers, but executed down the stretch for a 4-0 win.

Tennessee (22-6) faces the No. 23 Duke Blue Devils (16-8) in the second round Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. The winner advances to the Round of 16 at NCAA Men's Tennis Championships at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M, in College Station, Texas, May 14-19.

The Vols suffered first set losses in the two singles matches but stormed back to win the second set in both as Matt Brewer scored the clinching point at No. 6 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, win over Alex Ahlgren. Brewer led 4-3 in the first but Ahlgren used a solid return game to win the final three points. Brewer then jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second and built a 4-2 lead in the third en route to his win.

Matteo Fago was in the same boat as Brewer at No. 3, falling 6-4 in the first set to Grega Teraz before winning 6-3, and leading 5-1 in the third when the match was halted. Fago controlled both the second and third sets from the start, taking a 5-2 lead in the second before rolling in the third.

"The key to me is we had a couple of guys lose first sets and came back and won second sets and one of those guys clinched coming from a set behind," said head coach Sam Winterbotham. "If he had been two points slower we had another that was one point from clinching. We know we are going to win some matches. We need to turn around the matches we are losing. We did a fantastic job of that today.

"This first round was a tough match. ETSU fights. They are well coached. They are one of the toughest four seeds in the country. We knew it was going to be a tough match. Duke is going to be as tough as a second round as we'll face."

Tennessee captured the doubles point behind a gutty effort from the No. 2 and 42nd-ranked tandem of Boris Conkic and Fago. The pair were tied 3-3 following ETSU's victory at No. 3 and UT's win at No. 1. Holding a 6-5 lead, the pair broke the serve of Grega Teraz and Charles Bottoni to lead 7-5 and went on for the 8-5 win.

The No. 3 duo of John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren also faced some stiff competition from ETSU's No. 62 Ahlgren and Enrique Olivares at the No. 1 spot. After spotting ETSU a 3-1 lead Smith and Sandren reeled off three straight points to take a 4-3 lead. The Bucs would tie at 4-4 before UT's pair ran off another three points to lead 7-4 and Smith closed it out with an ace at 8-5.

Robin Akser and Daniel Isaza gave ETSU a quick lead in doubles with an 8-2 win over Brewer and Bryan Swartz at No. 3. Tennessee grabbed a 1-0 lead before Asker and Isaza took the next seven points.

"They got up on us in doubles. To our credit we weathered the storm and turned it around," said Winterbotham. "In singles again, it was a battle. I'm proud of our guys for sticking with it."

Sandgren secured a straight set win over Isaza, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 4. Sandgren bolted out to a 4-1 lead in both sets en route to giving Tennessee a 2-0 lead.

The fifth-ranked Smith dominated a top-20 matchup against the No. 28 Olivares, 6-2, 6-1. Smith and Olivares traded the first four points in the first set before Smith closed strong by winning the last four. Olivares then took a 1-0 lead in the second before Smith shut the door again to put the Vols up 3-0.

Another tough match was at No. 2 where Conkic and Sander Gille went back and forth in the first set with six ties and five lead changes before being settled in a 7-4 tiebreaker. Conkic was leading 3-2 when the match ended.

Christian Hansen's No. 5 7-6, 2-2, singles match against Akser mirrored Conkics as he won a first set tiebreaker 7-0 after surviving six ties and five lead changes.