The Tennessee men's tennis team considers itself better when playing outdoors, and coach Sam Winterbotham believes the game is meant to be played outside.
On Friday afternoon and evening with rain disrupting those plans, however, Tennessee (12-9, 4-3 SEC) actually found its magic indoors in coming back for a 5-2 victory over Vanderbilt.
After a slow start for the Vols that included losing the doubles point and seeing Brandon Fickey lose the first completed singles match to Vanderbilt's Blake Bazarnik 5-7, 2-6, a slight drizzle began falling at UT's Barksdale Tennis Stadium.
The rain began about 7:30 p.m. — after the start of the match had already been delayed from 3 to 4.
Tennessee pulled to a 2-2 tie after Jarryd Chaplin (7-6, 6-3) and No.5 Edward Jones (6-2, 7-6 (8-6)) won the second and third singles matches finished.
A short wait followed before the match resumed indoors with the three remaining Vols — No. 1 Vol Mikelis Libietis, No. 2 Hunter Reese, and No. 6 Bryan Swartz — all having just started their decisive third sets.
However, while inside the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center, the Vols apparently looked inside themselves as well and found some motivation.
"Coach in the locker room saw we needed to do a better job of being competitive and that's what we did," said Libietis, a freshman from Latvia.
As a result, all three went on to win in a spirited manner — and with the help of about 20 boisterous and cheering students.
Libietis, personally thanked the crowd of students.
"It's so loud it helps me," he said."Every time when I win a point, I'm pumped up and it's a great feeling."
Libietis had scored the fourth and decisive team point after Reese won 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 to put the Vols up 3-2.
In the final match, senior Swartz came back from a first-set loss against Joe Dorn to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.
"We love Bryan," said Winterbotham. "He's a great teammate and he's waited his opportunity and now he's taking his opportunity like a champion."
The Vols will return to action Sunday against Kentucky at 1 p.m. at Barksdale Tennis Stadium.
John Shearer is a freelance contributor.