UT tennis player is tops in the SEC

2:45 PM, Apr 25, 2013   |    comments
Mikelis Libietis. UT Sports.
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From UT Sports:

Sophomore Mikelis Libietis became the third Vol in program history to be named SEC Men's Tennis Player of the Year, the conference office released Thursday.

After leading the Vols to a second-place finish in the SEC, Libietis is currently ranked No. 2 nationally in singles and holds the No. 1 doubles ranking with sophomore Hunter Reese heading into the NCAA Championships.

Libietis and Reese were both named first-team All-SEC, the second all-conference honors for both young Vols. Junior Jarryd Chaplin was named second-team All-SEC for the first time in his career.

A native of Priekuli, Latvia, Libietis was nearly flawless during SEC play in his second year atop the Tennessee lineup, going 8-1 in singles and 10-1 in doubles.

Just a glance at his record alone shows how much Libietis has improved since his freshman season. The powerful right hander boasts a 35-5 overall singles record, 15 more wins than he had all of last year. He is also 29-7 in doubles, including 11-0 with Reese.

"What Mikelis has done this season is remarkable, and he's certainly a major factor in this team's success," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "Mikelis has grown immensely as a player and as a person. The maturity he has shown throughout the year is testament to that growth.

"He still has a ways to go in that maturity process, as we all do, but we're so impressed with his character and how much he cares about this program. It's very well deserved. The whole team, players, coaches, support staff are proud of Mikelis."

Tennessee has now been home to the SEC Player of the Year three times in the last four years. John-Patrick Smith was voted the SEC's best in 2010 and 2011 while helping the Vols to back-to-back conference titles.

Associate head coach Chris Woodruff earned the first-ever SEC Player of the Year award in 1993, the year he won the NCAA Singles Championship.

Reese, from Kennesaw, Ga., is now a two-time All-SEC recipient. Like Libietis, the sophomore Vol also showed marked improvement in his second year at Tennessee, going 29-7 (6-3 SEC) in singles and 30-7 (11-0 SEC) in doubles.

He has been ranked as high as No. 26 and bagged his first singles title -- the Wake Forest Spring Invitational -- to open January competition. He and Libietis were both named to the SEC All-Tournament Team last week as they led the Vols to the finals.

"To be on the All-SEC first team is an incredible accomplishment because is means you are one of the top players in the country," Winterbotham said. "It really is a who's who of college tennis players. It's a testament to his work ethic and growth as a player and person. He is an incredible competitor.

"To be honest, I'm more proud of who he is becoming as a person. This is just the tip of the iceberg for Hunter."

Chaplin, from Sydney, Australia, spent the spring season at many spots in the Tennessee lineup and proved to be a vital part of UT's success down the stretch. The serve-and-volley specialist went 8-3 in singles in the SEC on courts 3 and 4, and he went 6-4 in doubles with three teammates. He has 19 singles wins and 26 doubles wins, both season bests.

"For Jarryd Chaplin to be voted as part of the team really proves as we've been saying all year, he's one of our unsung heroes," Winterbotham said. "It's great to see the rest of the conference has the same appreciation for what Jarryd brings to the program as we do. As a program, we are so proud of Jarryd and what he is accomplishing at Tennessee."

No. 6 Tennessee (23-8) will find out its NCAA draw on Tuesday at 5 p.m. The selection show will be broadcast on ncaa.com.

Coach of the Year: Josh Goffi, South Carolina
Player of the Year: Mikelis Libietis, Tennessee
Freshman of the Year: Romain Bogaerts, Mississippi?State
Scholar Athlete of the Year: Daniil Proskura, Alabama

All-SEC First Team
Andreas Mies, Auburn
Nathan Pasha, Georgia
KU Singh, Georgia
Ben Wagland, Georgia
Tom Jomby, Kentucky
Anthony Rossi, Kentucky
Jonas Lutjen, Ole Miss
Nik Scholtz, Ole Miss
Romain Bogaerts, Mississippi State
Mikelis Libietis, Tennessee
Hunter Reese, Tennessee
Jeremy Efferding, Texas A&M
Gonzales Austin, Vanderbilt
Ryan Lipman, Vanderbilt

All-SEC Second Team
Jarryd Botha, Alabama
Becker O'Shaughnessey, Alabama
Daniel Cochrane, Auburn
Florent Diep, Florida
Stephane Piro, Florida
Chris Simpson, LSU
Stefan Szacinski, LSU
William Kallberg, Ole Miss
Malte Stropp, Mississippi State
Andrew Adams, South Carolina
Tsvetan Mihov, South Carolina
Thiago Pinheiro, South Carolina
Jarryd Chaplin, Tennessee
Harry Adams, Texas A&M
Shane Vinsant, Texas A&M

All-Freshman Team
Becker O'Shaughnessey, Alabama
Ben Wagland, Georgia
Romain Bogaerts, Mississippi State
Harry Adams, Texas A&M
Shane Vinsant, Texas A&M
Kris Yee, Vanderbilt

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