Luis Valero

Luis Valero preparing for his doubles match against Texas A&M on Mar. 22, 2018. 

The 2018 Spring tennis season didn’t end exactly the way the Tennessee men’s tennis team would have liked, as they suffered a loss to in-state rival Vanderbilt 4-3 on April 15.

Despite the flatline at the end of the season, it was imperative that the team recovered. 

“This will be by us in a couple of days,” head coach Chris Woodruff said following the loss. “We’ll get a couple days, and this loss will be by us.” 

The tough ending to the season should not detract from a season in which most expectations were broken by first-year head coach Woodruff and his squad. Coming off of a 13-14 season in 2016-17, Tennessee’s largely unchanged squad went 19-7 this year, good enough to earn a final ranking of No. 21. 

Included in this record was an 8-4 conference finish. With the regular season wrapped up, Tennessee is now looking ahead to the 2018 SEC Tournament, held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 

First round action kicks off on Wednesday.

Last season, Tennessee entered the tournament a nine seed, meaning it had to play its way into the quarterfinals — which it did — before it was handed a swift exit by the Texas A&M Aggies. 

This year, the Vols face an easier path to at least the semifinals. Recently, the tournament bracket was announced, and Tennessee was given the No. 4 spot in the tournament. With a top-four bid secured, the team has a ticket through the first two rounds. 

Tennessee will not play its first game until the quarterfinals, the mark that it worked hard to reach last season. It will play Kentucky, Alabama or Auburn, depending on match wins. 

With such momentum headed into the postseason, the Tennessee squad is feeling pretty good about its outlook. 

“Confidence is high right now,” Preston Touliatos said. “Compared to the past two years, we’re flying high, and we’re having fun with it. We’re just enjoying everything we’re doing right now.” 

The Vols have not had a whole lot of recent success in the SEC Tournament. Their last title win came in 2010, almost eight years ago. Since then, they have only reached the finals once more, in 2013. 

Since 2002, Tennessee has only won two SEC Tournament Championships. This season is its best chance in almost five years to reclaim SEC glory. 

Despite the extremely successful season, Woodruff still claims that Tennessee has much to work on. As the season concluded, he stood by his statement that the Vols need to improve as they head into the SEC Tournament. 

“We just need to get healthy and get some rest and hydrate,” Woodruff said. “Just little things. We just have to fire a little bit more.” Tennessee will look to recapture that glory in the SEC Tournament, with its first match set for Friday at 4 p.m. against an opponent that has yet to be determined.

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