Tennis Cats Fall To Vols in NCAA Quarterfinals
May 19, 2002
College Station, Texas - The ninth-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team fell short on its bid for an NCAA title with a loss to the second-seeded Tennessee Volunteers in the Round of Eight on Sunday, May 19. Earlier this season, Kentucky had defeated the Volunteers twice but could not find the way to a third victory with the 4-1 loss.
"I am very proud of this team," Head Coach Dennis Emery said. " They played great tennis today. Tennessee was very prepared and today's match shows how much they have developed through the year. We beat them twice earlier this year, but they have continued to get better and played strongly today with a mission and a purpose."
Kentucky grabbed an 8-5 victory on the third court of doubles with its duo of Rahim Esmail and Jesse Witten, while dropping the doubles match on the first court. With the opening point divided, it came down to the No. 2 spot but Kentucky could not find a way past Tennessee's tandem of Adam Carey and Peter Handoyo.
Tennessee continued its lead taking the first two victories in singles action. Sixth-ranked Witten fell to UT's No. 7 Peter Handoyo in straight sets at No. 1, while UK's Evan Austin dropped to No. 77 Carey on the third court. Down 3-0, Kentucky started to rally back.
Karim Benmansour, ranked 61st in the country, grabbed a straight-set victory over UT's No. 18 Mario Toledo. He secured the 6-1,7-6 victory with a 10-8 tiebreak win in the second set. Splitting sets on the final three courts, the match came down to third set action with Kentucky playing its best. At No. 4, Johan Grunditz fought back from an early third set deficit to even the score, 4-4, before Tennessee's Mark Dietrich grabbed two consecutive games for the set victory and the clinching match point. Action at No. 5 and No. 6 was suspended with the Cats leading the third sets on both courts.
The Cats end their season with one of the best teams in the Dennis Emery era. They tallied a 23-10 overall record, which is the best for a UK team since 1992 when they finished at 24-5. Kentucky's advancement to the NCAA quarterfinals marks only its third appearance under Emery.
"I have seen three teams in the quarterfinals now and it is always a thrill to play in such a match," Emery said, "It's just a bonus to win it."
Freshman Jesse Witten will continue his stay in COllege Station, Texas to represent the Wildcats in the NCAA Singles Championship to take place, May 22-27.