COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Tennessee's Davey Sandgren was looking forward to the doubles final the moment he stepped off the court after winning in the quarterfinals.
He and his partner, John-Patrick Smith, are having to look ahead again after falling in three sets to Virginia's Dominic Inglot and Michael Shabaz in the title match of the NCAA Tennis Tournament on Monday at Texas A&M's Mitchell Tennis Center.
"Hopefully we'll come back No. 1 in the preseason in the fall," said Sandgren, who added that rest was in the immediate future.
The 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 loss was the second straight in a final by Smith, who ironically lost to another Virginia player, Somdev Devvarman, last season in singles.
"Hopefully, next season, third time is lucky," Smith said of the invaluable experiences. "Any loss is big, I hate to lose, whether its video games or tennis matches. I learned a lot from this week, though, and a lot from last year and it showed throughout the season this year."
The duo has plenty to look forward to after taking home the runner-up trophy and becoming the first Vol twosome to reach the doubles final since Mel Purcell and Rodney Harmon won the whole thing in 1980.
The No. 2-seeded pair finished the season with a 32-12 record and with Sandgren a junior and Smith only a sophomore, coach Sam Winterbotham gave every indication he would give them a chance to build on the mark.
"Tennessee wants more of these kind of guys who will come out every day and work to get better," Winterbotham said. "Today was a tremendous tennis match. Tennessee didn't lose it, Virginia just won it."
The Vols opened as if they would win it, breaking the powerful serve of 6-foot-4 Inglot after falling behind love-40.
Then up 3-0, they had three opportunities to break Shabaz. It didn't happen, but the first break was all the Vols would need after serving out the set.
"On the first game, we really should have held throughout 40-love, but J.P. (Smith) hit some unbelievable backhand returns down the line," Shabaz said.
"Give them credit. They were all over it, but we didn't feel like they could keep returning like that."
The only trouble for the Vols came in the final game, in which Sandgren saved two breakers before hitting two service winners.
"I thought we played a pretty amazing first set," Sandgren said. "We didn't make any mistakes, we made most of our returns. We played extremely well."
The Cavaliers then picked up their game, specifically their serving.
There were no break opportunities in the second set and only once did a game get to deuce, and that was on Sandgren's serve at 2-3.
The Cavs continued to serve well in the tiebreaker, never losing a point.
The Virginia duo continued to pound service winners and only faced one more break point, the game after they had broken Sandgren to go up 2-1.
"It was frustrating because if I got my return in and we won the deuce point, they served cannons in the ad," Sandgren said. "So we never got up two points. They didn't miss too many first serves so it was hard to handle."
Any hopes the Vols had of the Cavalier duo tiring or beginning to miss a few serves ended in the final two games, when Inglot won at 15 and Shabaz closed it out with an ace and three service winners.
Richard Croome is a freelance contributor.