KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (release) -- In the final weeks of his college career, Tennessee senior John Collins recorded a career first Friday to help lead the No. 6 Vols to a first-round win in the NCAA Tennis Championships.
Collins dropped only one game on his way to winning his very first NCAA singles match, finishing Tennessee's 4-0 shutout over South Carolina State on an overcast afternoon at Barksdale Stadium.
The Vols (24-8) won the doubles point and then won four of six first sets against the Bulldogs (17-4), the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions.
It’s a really good start," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "It’s hard to sit for two and a half, three weeks and then get out there and play again. They did great. I’m really impressed with them.”
The Volunteers host No. 23 Clemson in second-round action Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The Tigers outlasted No. 42 Boise State 4-3 Friday in the opening match of the Knoxville Regional. The winner of Saturday’s second-round clash will advance to the Round of 16 at the NCAA finals site in Urbana, Ill., next week.
After taking the double point with relative ease, Tennessee jumped out to one-set leads at Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 singles and never looked back.
Tennessee’s Mikelis Libietis, the nation’s top-ranked singles player and also a member of America’s top-ranked doubles team, posted victories in both singles and doubles. The sophomore from Latvia improved to 36-5 in singles this season, 16 more wins than he had all of last year.
He was first off the singles courts for the Vols, earning a 6-0, 6-3 win over Tomas Bizon at the top of the lineup. Junior Jarryd Chaplin recorded his 20th win of the season by beating Peteris Vinogradovs 6-1, 6-2.
With the Vols up 3-0, Collins and sophomore Hunter Reese were both closing in on the finish line, but Collins got there first. He clinched the match for the Vols with a 6-1, 6-0 triumph over Jiri Stiburek on court No. 5.
For Collins, Friday marked his first NCAA singles victory in a lineup. His previous NCAA experience had come as a sophomore at Maryland. After transferring to UT for his senior season, Collins is making sure his career ends on a high note.
“I’m really pleased with John getting the clinch -- it was awesome," Winterbotham said. "Being at home, being a senior, having that is a special moment."
Now Tennessee turns its attention to Clemson, a team that overcame a slow start in singles to down Boise State in a 4-3 match.
“Clemson is a very well coached team from what I understand," Chaplin said. "They have a lot of young talent. They are in a similar kind of position as us in terms of having a young team and doing extremely well this year as well.
"They’re top 25 and it’s going to be a tough match. One to six and then they’re a pretty well-equipped doubles team. I think if we go in and fight the way we have for the most part of the season, I think we can come away, hoping to get a little further.”
Notes: Friday notably marked the return of sophomore Brandon Fickey to the lineup after coming back from a shoulder injury. He played No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles and did not complete either match … Tennessee looks to advance to the round of 16 for the fifth time in Winterbotham's seven years at UT … Tennessee is 18-1 at home in NCAA opening-round matches, including 9-0 in the Winterbotham era … Edward Jones is now 9-1 in NCAA doubles matches.
#6 Tennessee 4, South Carolina State 0
1. #1 Mikelis Libietis, UT, def. Tomas Bizon, SCSU, 6-0, 6-3
2. #34 Hunter Reese, UT vs. Anton Protsenko, SCSU, 6-1, 5-4
3. Brandon Fickey, UT, vs. Artemy Nikitin, SCSU, 4-6, 0-4
4. Jarryd Chaplin, UT, def. Peteris Vinogradovs, SCSU, 6-1, 6-2
5. John Collins, UT, def. Jiri Stiburek, SCSU, 6-1, 6-0
6. Edward Jones, UT, vs. Marius Dragoi, SCSU, 4-6, 1-4
1. #1 Libietis/Reese, UT def. Nikitin/Protsenko, SCSU, 8-2
2. Chaplin/Fickey, UT, vs. Dragoi/Vinogradovs, SCSU, 6-6 unf.
3. #34 Collins/Jones, UT, def. Bizon/Stiburek, SCSU, 8-2
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (1,4,5).
Chapel Hill, N.C. (release) -- The University of Tennessee women's tennis team jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after clinching the doubles point and never looked back en route to a 4-0 sweep of Virginia Commonwealth in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the victory the No. 31 Lady Vols improve to 13-11 on the season and hand No. 38 VCU its first loss since February 24 snapping a 13 match win streak. VCU finishes its season with a 16-5 record.
"It is the first round of the NCAA match, we haven't played in couple of weeks and we got off to a good start in the doubles," said co-head coach Mike Patrick. "In singles, we had some matches that went pretty quick for them, but they were competitive in a lot of spots. It was a good first match for us and we are looking for our opportunity to play Carolina tomorrow."
The first round victory over the Rams marks the second straight season that the Lady Vols have swept VCU to begin the NCAA Tournament. UT improves to 3-0 over VCU, with all three wins coming in NCAA action.
Tennessee took the doubles point with a couple of victories on courts one and two. The No. 5 ranked doubles pair of Brynn Boren and Kata Szekely came away with an 8-2 victory on court one to start things off followed by an 8-3 win by Joanna Henderson and Sarah Toti on court two.
The doubles point captured by the Lady Vols was the first point given up by VCU since April 9.
The doubles win was also the 99th of senior Szekely's career. The duo have combined for 37 doubles wins in 2012-13 combined which currently ranks in a tie with Paula and Peta Kelly for seventh on the UT Single Season Doubles Wins chart.
Caitlyn Williams kept the momentum going for Tennessee with an easy 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles followed by a 6-0, 6-1 victory on court five by Mimi Fotopoulos to extend the match lead to 3-0.
It was the senior Szekely who captured match point for the Lady Vols using a 6-1, 7-6 (1) victory to seal the deal.
"We have to be really good tomorrow," said Patrick. "Carolina is a good team, they have prepared well and they have had a super season so for us to be competitive we are going to have to bring our `A' game."
The Lady Vols will return to action tomorrow in the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they will face the winner of the North Carolina/South Carolina State match to take place Friday afternoon.
#31 Tennessee 4, #38 VCU 0
1. #24 Brynn Boren (UT) vs. #76 Cindy Chala (VCU) 3-6, 4-3, unfinished
2. #35 Kata Szekely (UT) def. Yukako Noi (VCU) 6-1, 7-6 (7-1)
3. Caitlyn Williams (UT) def. Josefin Hjertquist (VCU) 6-0, 6-1
4. Joanna Henderson (UT) vs. Salome Kvitashvili (VCU) 4-6, 1-5, unfinished
5. Mimi Fotopoulos (UT) def. Olga Terteac (VCU) 6-0, 6-1
6. Tiffany Tavares (UT) vs. Olga Barscheuskaya (VCU) 7-5, 5-2, unfinished
1. #5 Brynn Boren/Kata Szekely (UT) def. Olga Barscheuskaya/Yukako Noi (VCU) 8-2
2. Joanna Henderson/Sarah Toti (UT) def. Cindy Chala/Josefin Hjertquist (VCU) 8-3
3. Caitlyn Williams/Jesse Grace (UT) vs. Salome Kvitashvili/Olga Terteac (VCU) 3-7, unfinished
VCU 16-5; National ranking #38
Tennessee 13-11; National ranking #31
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (3,5,2)
Tennessee advances to NCAA second round Saturday vs. UNC.