Vols Fall Short Against Gators, 4-3
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The sixth-ranked Vols dug themselves an early hole Sunday they could not quite escape in a 4-3 loss to Florida at Barksdale Stadium.
After losing the doubles point and straight-set matches on court 3 and 4, the Vols quickly fell behind 3-0 before even getting on the scoreboard.
The Vols eventually rallied to tie the match 3-3 behind wins by Edward Jones on 5, Mikelis Libietis on 1 and Hunter Reese on 2, putting the fate of the match in the hands of senior John Collins at the bottom of the lineup.
In an up and down final set, Collins was broken in his final service game to lose in the deciding match 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 to Luke Johnson.
"We've got to try and figure out how to get this team to understand they have to play to win," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "That's our challenge right now. I know as a coach it's not an immediate fix. It's not something that happens over night, but I would've thought we would be a little farther along than where we are right now."
The Vols (15-6, 2-3 SEC) lost the doubles point for the first time since changing doubles lineups three weeks ago. Libietis and Reese won their fourth consecutive match at the No. 1 position 8-5, but the Vols lost close matches minutes on courts 2 and 3 to fall behind 1-0.
As singles started, Tennessee won four of six first sets.
Even so, the Vols fell behind 3-0 when Brandon Fickey lost to Stephane Piro 6-0, 6-4 on court 3 and Jarryd Chaplin was broken in the last game of both sets to Billy Federhofer in a 6-4, 6-4 loss.
From there, Tennessee dug back into the match. Jones snapped his four-match losing streak, beating Gordon Watson quickly 7-5, 6-2 on court 5 after a tight first set.
Libietis beat No. 75 Florent Diep 7-6, 6-3 on court 1, and Reese cruised in the final set to beat Bob van Overbeek 6-2, 5-7, 6-0 and tie the match 3-3.
From there, the decision came down to the bottom of the lineup. Collins won the first set against Johnson but lost the second set in the tiebreaker.
The third set featured lots of ups and downs. Collins trailed 3-0 and came back to take a 4-3 lead. Johnson broke back to put the game back on serve and eventually broke Collins at 6-5 to win the match for the Gators.
Tennessee hits the road on Friday at Kentucky.
Florida 4, Tennessee 3
1. No. 6 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. No. 75 Florent Diep (UF) 7-6, 6-3
2. No. 29 Hunter Reese (UT) def. No. 123 Bob van Overbeek 6-2, 5-7, 6-0
3. Stephane Piro (UF) def. No. 115 Brandon Fickey 6-0, 6-4
4. Billy Federhofer (UF) def. Jarryd Chaplin 6-4, 6-4
5. Ed Jones (UT) def. Gordon Watson 7-5, 6-2
6. Luke Johnson (UF) def. John Collins 4-6,7-6, 7-5
1. No. 17 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. Bob van Overbeek/Stephane Piro (UF) 8-5
2. Gordon Watson/Billy Federhofer (UF) def. John Collins/Ed Jones (UT) 9-7
3. Florent Diep/Luke Johnson (UF) def. Jarryd Chaplin/Brandon Fickey 8-5
Order of finish: Doubles: (1,3, 2); Singles (3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 6)