News Sentinel staff
Getting to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA tennis quarterfinals would have been "a tremendous accomplishment" in the words of Tennessee coach Sam Winterbotham.
His rebuilding Vols fell a step short, eliminated 4-0 by host North Carolina on Sunday in a rain-delayed second-round match in Chapel Hill.
The Vols finish 15-14 in a start-over year that required Winterbotham to replace five of his six singles players from a veteran rotation that reached the NCAA title match in 2010 and the quarterfinals in 2011.
The Tar Heels won the doubles point with victories at No. 1, 8-3 over Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, and 8-4 at No. 3 over Peter Nagovnak and Bryan Swartz.
In singles, only Libietis at No. 1 and Jarryd Chaplin at No. 4 managed to win their first sets. The Tar Heels were building momentum toward the Round of 16 at Georgia.
Esben Hess-Olesen made quick work of freshman Brandon Frickey, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 3. Oystein Steiro made it 3-0 Tar Heels with a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win over Taylor Patrick at No. 6.
The clincher came at No. 2, where Brennan Boyajian beat freshman Reese, 6-1, 6-3.
"North Carolina is a good team,'' Winterbotham said, "but they don't match up man-for-man better at every spot.
"We match up well against that team. We felt very comfortable. Our doubles needed to play well. We needed to play well in singles. That was it.''
Two rain delays stretched the math beyond six hours.
"We needed to handle that better than we did,'' Winterbotham said. "We lacked experience necessary in this environment to do it.''
Libietis will play in the NCAA singles tournament. He and Reese will play in the doubles bracket.
All six singles starters Sunday are expected to return in 2013.