Tennis teams start with Winthrop

Vols second overall seed in NCAA

Tennessee's men and women did a double-take Tuesday when the NCAA tennis brackets were revealed.

They'll both open at home and Winthrop will be the opponent for each.

The matches will be held the weekend of May 14-16 at Barksdale Stadium.

The No. 2-ranked men (26-1) are the overall second seed in the 64-team bracket behind Virginia.

They face Big South Conference champion Winthrop (13-11) on May 15 at noon.

Alabama (13-13) and ETSU (15-7) meet in the other first-round match at 9 a.m.

The winners will face off the next day at 1 p.m. for the right to advance to the Round of 16 in Athens, Ga.

The Vols, accustomed to wearing a bull's-eye all through a season in which they swept the SEC regular season and tournament, aren't down-playing their postseason aspirations.

"We're a good to very good team,'' said UT coach Sam Winterbotham. "To be great, we need to win something.

"A national championship, you could say that's a great team.''

The Lady Vols (16-8) earned the No. 13 seed. They play Winthrop (16-8), which brings an eight-match winning streak to town on May 14 at 1 p.m. Indiana (15-9) and Vanderbilt (13-9) square off in the other opener at 10 a.m.

The winners meet May 15 at 3 p.m.

The Lady Vols split with Vanderbilt this year and lost 5-1 at Indiana indoors.

"We've had good luck playing the teams we've played before so far,'' co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "We're happy to host.''

History suggests they should be happy to host.

The UT women were 12-0 in NCAA tournament home matches until they lost to South Carolina last year in the second round.

After an injury-plagued campaign, the Lady Vols are getting healthy at the right time. Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely are back for doubles and Szekely might even get to play singles.

"Heathy is a relative term with our team right now,'' Patrick said. "But we are going to have two girls who haven't played much during the season.

"We've had a full team of eight at practice the last two days. That's the first time that's happened all year.''

Nothing has slowed the UT men's march since their only loss, at Virginia on Feb. 15. They bring a 16-match winning streak into the bracket.

John-Patrick Smith begins the tournament ranked No. 1 in singles and No. 3 in doubles with partner Davey Sandgren.

Smith, a junior, is determined to see the Vols move past the Round of 16, where the ride ended in the past two seasons.

"The last two years we've had mediocre results in the NCAA,'' he said. "But this year I think we can go really deep down the stretch.

"We have the depth and the talent to do well.''

Today, Smith and several of his teammates will learn their draw in the singles and doubles tournament that follows the team event.

He advanced to the singles finals as a freshman and, with Sandgren, to the doubles finals last season.

"The first thing is the team event,'' Smith said.

"It all comes down to the NCAA championship. That's what everybody works towards. That's what everybody builds their program for.''

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Comments » 2

CAReed writes:

Go Vols!!!!!!!!!!

springtx_vol writes:

The seeding and placement of schools for both the men's and women's draw is ridiculous. Three SEC schools in the same half of a bracket so that only one of them can make it to the final 8. There should be a rule in every sport that schools from the same conference should not play until the round of 8. I would think that SEC schools would rather drop a seed rather than play a conference foe in the second or third round.

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