©Colette Lewis 2010--
Louisville head coach Rex Ecarma knows a little bit about $2 bets, living in the home of the Kentucky Derby. After his team fell to second-ranked Tennessee tonight, he's putting his money on the Volunteers to take the NCAA title this year.
"If I could define a national championship level, it looks like that," Ecarma said. "They didn't let us bother them. They looked like a team that is destined to do something huge."
Tennessee and Louisville started the day outside, and had barely completed the first games of the doubles when rain moved into the Athens area for the second time today. While Stanford and UCLA finished their match, won by the Bruins 4-2, Louisville and Tennessee were forced to wait to resume their match on the four indoor courts on site.
If the wait bothered the Volunteers, it didn't show. They took the doubles point with Davey Sandgren and JP Smith beating Simon Childs and Alejandro Calligari 8-5 at No. 1, and Edward Jones and Matteo Fago taking out Andrew Carter and Chidi Gabriel 8-3 at No. 3.
Once the singles began, it was freshmen Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren who set the tone at courts 3 and 4. Sandgren, saying afterward that it was the best match he had played all semester, took the first set from Alejandro Calligari 6-1 at 4, while Williams made equally short work of his opening set with Simon Childs, winning it 6-2. JP Smith had put away Austen Childs 6-2 in the first set at No. 1, so an early evening looked likely for the Volunteers.
Sandgren had won a tough three-setter in Tennessee's 7-0 win over Louisville earlier this year, so he was determined to keep his foot on the gas.
"I was really looking forward to playing him again, to see if I could do a little better and make it a little quicker," Sandgren said.
He broke a 3-3 tie in the second set and took the last three games of the match for a 6-1, 6-3 win, and just moments later, Williams made it 3-0 Tennessee with a 6-2, 6-0 victory. Smith was up 5-2 in the second set, and with a minimum of fuss, the junior from Australia recorded the fourth point with a 6-2, 6-2 win.
Smith was glad to make it to the quarterfinals after losing in the round of 16 in his freshmen and sophomore years.
"I said to Woody (associate head coach Chris Woodruff) that it was nice to get out of that round of 16 rut," Smith said. "We would like to win the event and that's been our goal for the whole season."
As for their position as favorites, head coach Sam Winterbotham isn't shying away from that tag, although he said there may be 8 or 9 teams who fit the profile.
"We've had a great year," Winterbotham said of the Volunteers, whose sole loss this season is to No. 1 Virginia in the ITA Team Indoor final. "We deserve to be in that conversation, but we'll find out at the end."
For complete results, see the interactive bracket at ncaa.com.
Friday, May 21, 2010