COLUMBIA, S.C. - The seventh-seeded Vanderbilt men's tennis team kicked off the 2016 SEC tournament with a commanding 4-2 victory over the tenth-seeded LSU Tigers. With the win, Vanderbilt takes on the seconded-seeded Florida Gators in Friday morning's 9:00 am CT quarterfinal match.
Vanderbilt kicked off the second round of play by claiming a highly competitive doubles point.
The Commodores took the 1-0 lead in tandems, as Baker Newman and Daniel Valent won two deuce points on the way to a 6-3 victory on court three. But the Tigers hung on to a 3-0 lead on court two, to level the paramount point with a 6-3 win over Tate Allwardt and Pen Binet.
With the doubles point hanging in the balance, all eyes turned to court one, where an ITA-top 15 showdown was occurring between No. 14 Rhys Johnson/Cameron Klinger and the Tiger's No. 8 Daigle/Arias. Down 6-5, Klinger's serve caused problem after problem for LSU, as the Tiger's failed to return two straight serves, sending the match to a tiebreaker.
Again the Commodores found themselves in a 5-3 hole, but put on a gutsy performance to power ahead and take the 6-5 lead. Vanderbilt pulled off the upset, earning the point advantage, 7-6(6).
Reeling off the doubles victory, the Commodores extended their lead to 3-0 with back-to-back straight set singles wins on courts four and six. With both teams having altered their lineups since their last meeting, only one Commodore faced his previous opponent.
Newman got off the court first in singles action, flying through his first set 6-0. For the fourth straight match, the sophomore walked away from the contest only allowing his opponent four or less games in his 6-0, 6-3 defeat over Arias. The Miami, Fla. native heads into tomorrow's competition riding a five-match winning streak.
Freshman Alex Ross followed Newman's lead after pulling out his first set on six, 7-5, and powering through the second 6-2 to give the 'Dores a 3-0 lead over the Tigers. The victory was Ross' third against a league opponent, and the 13th win with the black and gold.
LSU took the next two matches as both Valent and Klinger fell on courts one and two. Having defeated No. 52 Daigle 6-1, 6-1 during the regular season, Valent had trouble this go around, falling to the junior in a tight 6-4, 7-6(3) contest on one.
Klinger and No. 70 Justin Butsch were neck-and-neck throughout the first set, but the freshman lost the breaker, 7-6(3). The Tiger took control of the second, to chip away at the Vandy lead, 7-6(3), 6-3.
Up 3-2, the Commodores were in solid positions on courts three and five. It appeared that Johnson would clinch the final victory for VU, but after dropping three match points it was senior Kris Yee who clinched the 'Dores spot in quarterfinals in a powerful 7-6(1), 6-3 performance on court five.