UK finishes with a bang: Defeats Vanderbilt to end regular season


Sophomore Eric Quigley plays in a singles match against Wake Forest at Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

By Ethan Levine

It was just the type of match you would expect to see between two Southeastern Conference rivals. Two highly ranked teams, three top-50 players, five end-of-set tiebreakers, and a season’s worth of emotion all packed into UK’s 7-0 victory over Vanderbilt at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis Center Saturday.

“We played very well against Vanderbilt, especially at the end of sets,” said UK head coach Dennis Emery, now in his 28th year. “Vanderbilt is a very good team and very tough to beat, the win was a real testament to our mental toughness.”

The match was the season finale for UK, now ranked No. 8 in the nation, as well as Vanderbilt, ranked No. 31. The excitement started at the top in the No. 1 singles match between the Cats’ Eric Quigley and Vanderbilt’s Ryan Lipman. Both players are the top players on their respective squads, as well as top-50 nationally with Quigley coming into the match at No. 11 and Lipman ranking No. 30.

After winning the first set 6-3, Quigley went into a second set tiebreaker with Lipman, which ended with Quigley prevailing 7-3, and claiming the set overall 7-6. The Cats’ top player remains undefeated in the month of April as he continues to lead the team’s charge into the postseason.

UK’s other top-50 player, Alex Musialek, needed a first set tiebreaker of his own to win his No. 2 singles match 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. UK also went on to win their other four singles matches, requiring two more tiebreakers and a marathon 17-game third set in the No. 6 singles match, which was eventually won by UK’s Alex Lambropoulos 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 10-7.

In doubles, UK won two of three matches, the third of which went unfinished. Winners included the No. 23 doubles pair in the nation, Quigley and Brad Cox, as well as UK’s unique all-French doubles tandem of Alex Musialek and Anthony Rossi.

The Cats now adjust their focus from the regular season, which finished with a seven-match win streak, to the SEC Tournament, which will be played in Lexington starting Thursday and running through Sunday. The conference currently contains four, top-10 teams, including UK.

Emery enters the tournament understanding what he and his team are up against.

“We have had a good year, and we have played well at home,” Emery said. “Outside of the NCAA tournament, the SEC tournament is one of the best tournaments in the country. Everybody comes in thinking they have a chance, so it is going to be very tough. We have a lot of momentum having won 12 of our last 13 matches, so hopefully we can continue to play with that same focus and sense of purpose.”