CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In a match that spanned six hours because of rain delays, Tennessee fell behind early and could not catch up in a 4-0 loss to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Championships.
The Vols dropped a rain-delayed doubles point and did regain momentum in singles, losing four of six first sets. Freshman Brandon Fickey on court 3, junior Taylor Patrick on court 6 and redshirt freshmen Hunter Reese all lost their matches in straight sets as North Carolina advanced to the round of 16.
The 17th-ranked Vols ended the season with a 15-14 record.
“To put today in perspective as a coaching staff for this team to basically start new and make the round of 16 in Athens would have been a tremendous accomplishment,” Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. “The problem is when you fall short of that, you have to ask yourself, ‘Did we have an opportunity to accomplish that?’
“Honestly, we had a great region. North Carolina is a good team, 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.”
The match started outdoors but a two-hour rain delay ensued halfway through doubles with the Vols down a break on all three courts.
The Tar Heels took the doubles point when play resumed, and rain started again with North Carolina leading 2-0 after Fickey lost 6-3, 6-1 to Esben Hess-Olesen on court 3. At that point, the officials moved the match inside UNC’s home facility.
“There was a lot of stopping and starting today, and the weather made it difficult to maintain focus for both teams,” Winterbotham said. “There was no benefit or hindrance to either team, but we needed to handle that a little better than we did. We lacked the experience necessary in this environment to do it.”
Once inside, the Tar Heels maintained their leads across most courts and picked up their final two points within five minutes of each other. Patrick was serving for the second set on court 6 but was broken and lost in a tiebreaker to Oystein Steiro 6-2, 7-6 (2). Reese lost the deciding match 6-1, 6-3 to Brennan Boyajian on court 2.
Freshman Mikelis Libietis and sophomore Jarryd Chaplin both won their first sets and were still in good position to win when the match was clinched. Libietis was serving at 6-4, 4-5 against 28th-ranked Jose Hernandez on court 1. Chaplin had just opened his second set.
Junior Edward Jones was also gaining momentum on court 5. He lost the first set to William Parker 6-2 but he was on serve at 5-4.
The Vols are not quite ready to close the door on the 2012 season. Libietis and Reese will travel to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA individual championships. The freshman pair will play doubles, and Libietis will play singles.