Tennessee men’s tennis player Taylor Patrick is not very experienced playing in big SEC matches, but the Bearden High graduate has a love for the Vols that is typical of a hometown player.
The more experienced Jarryd Chaplin, meanwhile, is from Australia, but has fallen in love with the hometown crowd.
On Sunday afternoon at Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center, the two drew on that inspiration in gaining singles wins and propelling ninth-ranked Tennessee (17-6, 4-3 SEC) to a 4-2 win over No. 13 Vanderbilt.
For Patrick, a redshirt senior who scored the fourth and deciding team point at No. 6 singles, the win was especially sweet.
“I have dreamed about that since I have come here to school — clinching an SEC match and having everyone watching,” said the nephew of Tennessee women’s co-head tennis coaches Mike and Sonia Hahn-Patrick.
Patrick won the first set, 7-6, over Rhys Johnson, but lost the second, 4-6. However, he managed a slight comeback in the latter set and carried that over to a 6-0 win in the third.
“In the third set, I just felt like I was playing so good,” he excitedly said. “I don’t know if I’ve played that good in my entire career.”
Also thrilled was coach Sam Winterbotham, who called Patrick the heart and soul of the team.
“I think it’s fantastic that Taylor gets to clinch the match for us,” he said. “He bleeds orange. For him to get that win, it’s a special one.”
Patrick’s opportunity to be the clincher came after the Vols won the doubles point and No. 1 singles player Mikelis Libietis beat Ryan Lipman, 6-3, 6-2.
Although Edward Jones (6-1, 6-4) and Brandon Fickey (6-1, 1-6, 6-4) lost at Nos. 5 and 3, respectively, to let Vanderbilt (13-6, 4-3) tie the team score at 2-2, Chaplin gained the third point with a three-set win over Marc van der Merwe.
The junior trailed 3-5 in the third set at No. 4 before rebounding for a 7-5 win. And he did it while pumping up the crowd in an animated manner not much different from the famous silent movie star of the same last name.
“I just played to the crowd,” he said with a laugh. “I feel like I get in a zone sometimes and they help me out so much.”
After Patrick later clinched, Hunter Reese’s match against Gonzales Austin at No. 2 was stopped in the third set with Reese trailing 5-4.
John Shearer is a freelance contributor.