Tennis team can't find shelter from Kentucky's storm, 7-0

Just like against Vanderbilt on Friday night, the Tennessee men's tennis team had to move its match against Kentucky to the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center due to a storm Sunday afternoon.

But the Vols could still not find any refuge tennis wise, as the ninth-ranked Wildcats managed to halt a four-match Tennessee winning streak with a punishing 7-0 victory.

"We've given out plenty of 7-0's, and sometimes you just have to take one," said Sam Winterbotham, coach of Tennessee (12-10, 4-4 SEC), which is facing a slight rebuilding season this year after losing standouts John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams. "Give Kentucky credit. Kentucky's just a little too experienced for us right now."

Featuring four players ranked in the top 100, Kentucky (20-4, 8-0) was able to win the first sets in five of the singles matches, and Tennessee could never recover.

No. 7-rated Eric Quigley from Pewee Valley, Ky., looked especially skillful in beating Tennessee freshman Mikelis Libietis, 6-1, 6-3.

Other Kentucky straight-set wins came from Alex Musialek over Hunter Reese at No. 2 (6-3, 6-0), Alejandro Gomez over Edward Jones at No. 5 (7-6 (7-4), 6-4), and Panav Jha over Bryan Swartz at No. 6 (6-1, 6-3).

In the other singles matches, No. 3 Brandon Fickey and No. 4 Jarryd Chaplin of Tennessee each lost by only a single break in the third set.

Despite the lack of positives found on the scoresheet, Winterbotham still found one or two in the analysis. Or at least he was able to think in terms of what if, particularly in the doubles, where the No. 2 team of Chaplin/Jones won 8-5 and Libietis/Reese lost only 8-6.

"I wish we had played a little better in the doubles point," he said. "I think the doubles point was for the taking. If we got the doubles point, probably it changes the run of first sets."

He also thought Tennessee played better following the rain delay.

But most of the Vol thoughts were on how good Kentucky is.

"They're an extremely good team," said Fickey, the freshman from Knoxville. "We knew that coming in. To get a win, we were going to have to play our best."

And now all the Vols can do is try to learn from the loss and move forward.

"We'll regroup," said Winterbotham. "I know this program's getting better."

John Shearer is a freelance contributor.

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