Tennessee sophomore Jarryd Chaplin tried his best to block out distractions late in his No. 4 singles match Sunday afternoon against Michigan State's Austin Brooks.
Not an easy thing to do.
Tensions were at a fever pitch. Head coaches were yelling at each other. Opposing players had been jawing at each other — on the courts and in the stands. It was a day when chair umpires made one call after another as opposing players questioned line calls.
Finally, Chaplin edged Brooks 6-4, 6-3 for the clinching point as the No. 24-ranked Vols beat No. 53 Michigan State 4-2 in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at Goodfriend Tennis Center.
"It's always good being the fourth point, finally closing it out, a big weight off our shoulders," Chaplin said. "Yes, it's good, but it's no different from any of the other boys that got a point today."
UT (3-1) won its third consecutive match after being upset by Memphis 4-3 in the Jan. 20 season opener. The Vols beat Eastern Kentucky 6-1 later that day and beat then-No. 15 Georgia Tech on Jan. 22.
Today at 5, UT plays host to No. 23 Ole Miss in the Kick-Off Weekend final for a berth in the 16-team ITA National Indoors on Feb. 17-20 in Charlottesville, Va. Ole Miss beat No. 15 Oklahoma 4-0 in Sunday's first match.
"We'll have to play a lot better," UT coach Sam Winterbotham said of today's match.
UT freshman Brandon Fickey, former Webb School standout, improved to 4-0 this year with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Michigan State's Ronnie Hulwicz at No. 2 singles.
Fickey said the Memphis loss didn't sit well with the team.
"Everybody here on the team hates losing," Fickey said. "That match didn't make our season. We've still got a ton of matches to play, and I think we've showed the last three that we're a good team."
UT clinched the doubles point Sunday with victories by Fickey and Edward Jones at No. 2 and Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese at No. 1.
Michigan State (1-2) tied it 1-1 when Drew Lied beat Jones 6-2, 6-2 at No. 5 singles.
Libietis, a freshman from Latvia, made it 2-1 with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Denis Bogatov at No. 1. Fickey's match ended shortly after for a 3-1 lead.
After the Spartans' Aaron Pfister beat Reese 6-3, 6-3 at No. 3 singles, all eyes turned to the last two matches being played — Chaplin against Brooks and UT's Taylor Patrick against Gijs Linders at No. 6.
The Chaplin-Brooks match got especially dicey in the late stages over a couple of questioned line calls.
When Chaplin called a volley by Brooks wide — giving him and the Vols match point — Spartans coach Gene Orlando raced across the court and had a heated verbal exchange with Winterbotham.
"He's frustrated because the situation didn't go his way," Winterbotham said. "Gene's fine. I'm fine with Gene. That's normal."
Chaplin then ended the match with a service return that Brooks hit wide. Coaches shook hands after a tense day.
"It happens sometimes," Orlando said of the questionable line calls. "You just hate to see it happen that way. It's hard to say how it all played out and what was right and what was wrong, but that's why you've got an umpire. The umpire makes a call and you go with the call."