Just like Hunter Reese did in the regular season, the sophomore beat Malte Stropp to clinch Tennessee’s 4-2 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday in the NCAA men’s tennis tournament in Urbana, Ill.
The seventh-seeded Vols (26-8) advance to play No. 2-seeded Virginia (27-0) on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Virginia defeated California 4-0.
After earning the doubles point, UT picked up singles victories from Jarryd Chaplin and Brandon Fickey to set the stage for Reese, who won 6-3, 7-5.
“Mississippi State is a really tough team,” UT coach Sam Winterbotham said. “We came out loose in doubles, which was good. We needed to be more relaxed than we were against Clemson (in the last round). I’m proud of them for that. It was great.
“They’ve competed so well all year, and this was just another day for them.”
Reese and Mikelis Libietis settled down late to beat 13th-ranked Stropp and John Angus 8-6 in doubles. Edward Jones and John Collins had match points in three previous games before clinching the point 8-6.
However, it all came down to top-ranked Libietis and No. 34 Reese.
Libietis lost the first set 6-3, but fought back to even it up at 6-1 and was up a break in the third set over sixth-ranked Romain Bogaerts.
Reese took the first set 6-3 and had chances to go ahead two breaks of serve in the second set, but Stropp rallied to go up 5-3 to serve for the set.
With the Vols lining up between courts 1 and 2, Reese regained momentum. He fought off a set point serving at 3-5, then reeled off four games in a row to win the match. Libietis didn’t have to finish.
It was Reese’s third win over Stropp this season and fourth in his career.
“He’s tough,” Reese said. “We battle every time. We’ve had a few weird ones where you’re never out of it with him.”