Tennessee freshman Hunter Reese came up short when he played the decisive singles match in a 4-3 loss to Memphis in the Jan. 20 season opener.
Reese came up big Monday night in the same situation against Ole Miss.
With all other matches completed, Reese defeated junior Jonas Lutjen 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 at No. 3 singles for the clinching point as the No. 24-ranked Vols beat the No. 23 Rebels 4-3 in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend final at Goodfriend Tennis Center.
Only briefly did Reese think about his loss in the third-set tiebreaker to Memphis' Joe Salisbury.
"Whenever I did, I made myself stop thinking about that (loss)," Reese said. "I made myself just focus on the match, every point."
Tennessee (4-1) advances to the 16-team ITA National Indoors on Feb. 17-20 in Charlottesville, Va.
"That's big for our program, really big," UT coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We want to be there every year."
UT beat Ole Miss (2-1) despite an injury sustained to No. 5 singles player Edward Jones, who fell to the court with a foot injury while serving at 5-4, 15-0 in the first set.
Jones, playing on the court next to Reese, was able to continue, but eventually lost to Chris Thiemann, 7-6, 6-2.
"I hate to say it, but I was counting on that win (by Jones)," Reese said. "I can't do that. At first, it was like, 'I really wanted that win,' but just to see him keep fighting helped me so much. If he could do it, then I could do it. I'm not in any pain, and he's over there playing with a sprained ankle."
UT clinched the doubles points with victories by No. 1 Mikelis Libietis and Reese and No. 3 Jarryd Chaplin and Peter Nagovnak.
No. 27-ranked Marcel Thiemann, a senior and twin brother of Chris Thiemann, put Ole Miss on the board with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Brandon Fickey at No. 2 singles. It was the first loss in five singles matches this year for Fickey, a freshman from Webb School.
Chaplin put the Vols up 2-1 with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over William Kallberg at No. 4 singles.
Ole Miss' Johan Backstrom posted a 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Taylor Patrick at No. 6 singles to tie the match, and Chris Thiemann's victory over Jones put the Rebels up 3-2.
Libietis, a freshman at No. 1, put his power game on display for a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over redshirt freshman Nik Scholtz and tied the match 3-all.
That left the match hinging on the outcome of Reese against Lutjen.
"I had no doubt, as long as he does the things he does every day, (Reese) had a great chance to win," Winterbotham said. "Against Memphis, he played like a guy who was playing his first dual match. There were a lot of nerves involved."
Not this time.
Reese didn't get rattled when he lost two match points and the game while serving at 5-2 in the third. Instead, Reese broke serve and won the match with a forehand pass.
"I was relieved that I would have a chance to return (serve) because my leg was starting to cramp up on my serve, so it kind of hurt me a little bit from the baseline, (wondering) when my leg was going to lock up," Reese said. "But when I got a look at a return game, I knew that was going to be it. That was my chance."