The Tennessee men's tennis team begins the 2008 season Friday in the UVA Ranked Plus One Invitational in Charlottesville, Va.
This year's tennis squad is looking to rebound after a first round exit in the NCAA Team Tournament in May against eighth seeded Baylor.
The 2008 edition of Tennessee tennis is headlined by three talented sophomores in J.P. Smith, Matteo Fago and Boris Conkic.
All three earned preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings, with Smith at 10th, Conkic 55th and Fago No. 117. Smith was named to ITA's preseason All-America Team in June at the conclusion of last season.
Conkic and Smith were also ranked No. 13 in doubles.
"We're looking at playing J.P. with Davey Sandgren, head coach Sam Winterbotham. "Davey is playing extremely well right now.
"For our team to be successful in doubles, we probably need to split up Boris and J.P., even though they are really good as a team."
Smith is returning after an amazing tournament run that concluded with a finals loss in the singles tournament to Somdev Devvarman of Virginia 6-3, 6-2.
"J.P. came in as a freshman and had just about as good of a year as there's been," Winterbotham said. "He's just as important in what he does off the field, he takes care of his academics, he works extremely hard at trying to get better. It's something infectious for the rest of the program."
The second-year player from Townsville, Australia compiled a 34-11 record last season, earning All-SEC First Team honors, SEC Freshman of the Year and Southeast Region Rookie of the Year. Smith was one of only five freshmen to earn All-America honors.
Conkic is ready for his first full season, after having to wait patiently for NCAA eligibility until October 2007. He won 9 singles matches in 2007, including a victory at the UNLV Fall Classic.
Conkic also was a threat in doubles after reaching the finals in the UNLV tournament with Davey Sandgren before withdrawing after a Sandgren injury.
Jeremy Tweedt, the sophomore from Paris, France, returns this season after tying Conkic for most singles' victories by a freshman.
"Jeremy has continued to get better and better," Winterbotham added.
Freshmen are also making an impact on this year's team, with the addition of Bryan Swartz and Christian Hansen.
"Brian Swartz has already impacted the program tremendously with his work ethic," Winterbotham said. "Christian Hansen looks really good for a freshman. It's real exciting to see him playing at the level he's playing."
Coach Winterbotham described the necessity for his team to develop their own goals for this season.
"I think the goals of the program never change," he said. "We're trying to have a program that competes for SEC and national championships. "We need to represent the program well (this weekend). Give an opportunity for guys like Matt Brewer to step up and show what he can do.
"That's what I want to see, guys going out there and competing and establishing themselves in this program."