Former Vol Tennys Sandgren makes dreams come true in Australian Open

All eyes were on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the men’s draw of the 2018 Australian Open. But former Tennessee tennis star Tennys Sandgren flew fearlessly under the radar in his first appearance at the Australian Open held annually in Melbourne, Australia. Sandgren competed for the Tennessee men’s tennis team from 2010-2011.

The un-seeded American made a historic run in this year’s Australian Open, defeating two ATP top 10 ranked opponents along the way. By the time the Gallatin, Tennessee native lost, he was the last American standing in the tournament. He is the first former Tennessee player to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since 2000, when current Tennessee men’s tennis head coach Chris Woodruff’s run ended in a loss to tennis great Pete Sampras.

In the first round, Sandgren defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7(7)-6(2), 6-2 in straight sets. The former Vol moved on to the second round where he defeated 2014 Australian Open winner and No. 9 ranked Swiss, Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in straight sets.

“It’s something going into a tournament like this, you don’t know if you’ll get an opportunity or a look or even be able to take advantage of it,” Sandgren said after his second-round win. “So, to come out of it with a victory, it’s a huge deal for me.”

Many pundits attributed Wawrinka’s loss to rust from his recovery due to an off-season knee surgery, but it was Sandgren who would move on to the third round where he would face 22-year-old German, Maximilian Marterer. The former Vol defeated Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7(7)-6(5) in four sets.

Sandgren finally turned heads and received international media attention when he defeated No. 5 ranked Dominic Thiem 6-2, 4-6, 7(7)-6(4), 6(7)-7(9), 6-3 in a thrilling five-set round of 16 match. Thiem, who is widely considered to be an up-and-coming tennis star, was a heavy favorite coming into the Australian Open.

“It’s taken a lot of time going into it, but to get all your wins in one sitting is strange,” Sandgren said after defeating Thiem which allowed him to move on to the second week of the tournament.

Sandgren’s debut Australian Open run ended in the quarterfinals where he would lose to Hyeon Chung. Although the former Vol kept the match close and even saved four match points, Chung would defeat Sandgren 6-4, 7(7)-6(5), 6-3 in straight sets.

Chung – the highest ranked South Korean tennis player in the world – made headlines defeating No. 4 ranked Alexander Zverev and six-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic in the previous rounds.

Tennys Sandgren who is currently ranked No. 97 in the world will look to build on an impressive Australian Open campaign, as he continues with the remainder of the 2018 ATP calendar season.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 21 Tennessee finishes strong against Wake Forest

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

No. 21 Tennessee (9-2) defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 79-60 on Saturday inside Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. With the win, Tennessee remains undefeated on the road and is now 3-1 against ACC opponents this season.

“We are who we say we are,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “We’re gonna find a way to get stops and win this game. And we did.”

Early foul trouble kept Tennessee’s key players on the bench for most of the first half. Sophomore forward Grant Williams fouled a Wake Forest player only seconds after tipoff. After each picking up two personal fouls, Williams and junior forward Admiral Schofield exited the game and would not return until the second half.

Wake Forest (7-5) would take advantage of Williams’ and Schofields’ absence in the post and would outrebound the Vols 19-11 in the first half. The Deacons, however, could not capitalize because of its 11 turnovers in the first half alone.

Offensively for the Demon Deacons, Keyshawn Woods led with 14 points in the first half which allowed the team to keep the game close, as the score was 36-35 at halftime. Woods was relatively quiet – as was the rest of the Wake Forest team – in the second half, only scoring four points.

Tennessee’s bench stepped up in the first half with Williams and Schofield sitting out. At halftime, junior forward Kyle Alexander had three rebounds and nine points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field.

The Vols looked much better in the second half and would have no problem pulling away on their way to the win. The visitors spread the ball effectively against a waning Wake Forest side with five different Tennessee players finishing the game with double-digit points.

“Give Tennessee credit,” Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning said. “They made plays and did some good things to prevent us from being as successful as you want it to be offensively.”

Sophomore guard Jordan Bowden drained a three-point shot with 3:48 left in the game to put Tennessee up 69-60 and end Wake Forest’s hopes of a comeback as it would be unable to score anymore points. The Vols finished the remainder of the game on a 16-2 run.

Bowden finished the game with 17 points behind five three-pointers and two free throws.

The Volunteers will remain on the road as they head to Fayetteville on Dec. 30 to face Arkansas in their first SEC matchup of the season after Christmas break. The game will tip at 1 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

“We know that we’ve got to get better,” Barnes said. “I think our guys realize it.”

Edited by Ben McKee

Photo by Brad Blackwelder

No. 21 Tennessee vs. Wake Forest preview and prediction

No. 21 Tennessee (8-2) will travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest (7-4) Saturday afternoon, as the game marks both teams’ last matchup before conference play. The matchup inside Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum is the first between the two sides since 2013, when Tennessee won 82-63 at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Prior to 2013, their last meeting was during the 1970-1971 season.

Tennessee will look to have a better performance against Wake Forest after squeaking by Furman 66-61 on Wednesday night, where they struggled to cope with the Paladin defense. The Vols shot 37 percent from the field, their worst shooting performance of the season. Much of Tennessee’s performance can be attributed to its emotional loss to North Carolina on Sunday, as it needed a strong performance from sophomore guard Jordan Bowden. The sophomore tied his career-high 21 points to help get the win.

The Vols have all the tools they need to earn their second road win after defeating Georgia Tech in Atlanta earlier this season. Leading the way offensively for Tennessee will be sophomore forward Grant Williams who leads the team with 27.8 points per game.

Bowden has been a key-player offensively as of late and will look to contribute from long-range, as he leads the team with 21 three-pointers.

Defensively, Tennessee cannot afford to switch-off and let a young Wake Forest team gain confidence on offense. This is where the Vols will look to Williams to secure defensive rebounds and earn crucial blocks to thwart any attack down in the paint.

Another player that Tennessee will need a big game from at both sides of the ball is junior forward Admiral Schofield who earned his second career double-double on Wednesday night, finishing with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Schofield has the ability to not only take on the big guys in the paint, but he is also a threat on the perimeter with his long-range shooting, as he is tied for second on the team with 16 three-pointers this season. Wake Forest will need to keep a watchful eye on him.

The Demon Deacons are fresh off a close 84-80 win over Coastal Carolina. Despite early losses in the season – losing four of its first six games – Wake Forest have been riding on a six-game win streak. A key victory over Illinois in November shows that this young team has learned from its mistakes and has the capabilities to come out with a win on Saturday.

Tennessee’s defense will have its hands full with junior guard Bryant Crawford who had an impressive 22-point season-high performance to help Wake Forest defeat Coastal Carolina on Monday night. Last season, Crawford became the first player with 500 points and 150 assists in a season since 1994-95 and has not slowed down this season. The junior is a dynamic player that the Demon Deacons have not seen since Chris Paul and will be a key player against the Vols on Saturday.

 Prediction

If Tennessee can clean up its mistakes from the Furman game and mentally get over the North Carolina game, then they can beat Wake Forest. The Vols have proved their resilience in games away from Knoxville with strong, gritty performances in the Bahamas and at Georgia Tech.

Wake Forest, however, should not be counted out as they are playing with confidence and will not allow Tennessee to easily beat them on home court. The game will be physical, and the score will be close to the very end. Tennessee’s biggest advantage is that it has head coach Rick Barnes, who will have them prepared for this game, and perhaps, the Vols can get away with simply outcoaching Wake Forest and leave Winston-Salem with a win before conference play begins.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee athletics

No. 7 Lady Vols shakes off late surge to beat No. 18 Stanford

No. 7 Tennessee defeated the No. 18 Stanford 83-71 on Thursday night. With the win, the Lady Vols break a five-game losing streak in Maples Pavilion.

“I just like the way we compete,” senior forward Jaime Nared said. “Everybody came in and did their part tonight.”

Tennessee is now 12-0 for the first time since 2005-2006, which is the same season when the Lady Vols last won in Palo Alto.

With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 6-6 on the season. Senior guard Brittany McPhee finished with 27 points and was the only Stanford player to finish with double-digit points on the night. Stanford is now 0-5 against ranked opponents this season.

For Tennessee, Nared led the team in scoring with 28 points. Fellow senior Mercedes Russell earned her 36th career double-double, finishing the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The game started out slowly as both teams traded missed shots to open the first quarter. Stanford held an early lead, but a three-pointer by freshman Rennia Davis followed by a breakaway lay-up from fellow freshman point guard Evina Westbrook allowed Tennessee to take a 6-4 lead.

Westbrook would go on to finish the game with a career-high 17 points, breaking her previous record of 15 points in Tennessee’s win over Texas.

Since the early lead change in the opening quarter, the Lady Vols never allowed the Cardinals to take the lead in the game. They led by as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Stanford would make a late surge and go on to cut Tennessee’s lead to only six points at 68-62 with 3:12 left in the game.

The Lady Vols had plenty of scoring opportunities to put the game away, but they were outrebounded 48-35 and allowed Stanford to keep the closing minutes interesting.

“When we rebound the basketball, we were good,” Lady Vols head coach Holly Warlick said following the game. “But when they went it, and missed it, and got extra second chance points… that’s on us for not finishing the play with the rebound.”

Late, clutch free throw shooting from Tennessee allowed them to comfortably finish out the game and pull away with the 83-71 win. The visitors finished the game shooting 86% from the free throw line.

“This game’s huge,” Warlick said. “This was a great test for us.”

The Lady Vols will remain on the road as they head to Lexington on Dec. 31 to face Kentucky in their first SEC matchup of the season. The game will tip at 12 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

“I’m really excited with how we’ve done so far.” Nared said. “But at the end of the day it’s December still. We have so much basketball to go. We want to keep getting better.”

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee athletics

No. 7 Lady Vols vs. No. 18 Stanford preview

The seventh-ranked Lady Vols (11-0) travel to Palo Alto to take on the No. 18 Stanford Cardinals (6-5) on Thursday night. The game marks both teams’ last match-up before conference play. In their last meeting, the Lady Vols narrowly defeated Stanford 59-51 inside Thompson-Boling Arena last season.

After cruising by Long Beach State on Sunday night, the Lady Vols are 11-0 for the first time since 2005-2006 and will need to keep their momentum heading into Thursday night. Although the team is 0-5 playing in Palo Alto in the last five years, this is a different Tennessee team that can easily break its losing streak. The Lady Vols have blown by opponents this season and have been shooting very efficiently with a .485 average shooting percentage. Defensively, Tennessee has given up 61.1 points allowed per game.

Leading the way offensively for the Lady Vols will be seniors Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell who are averaging 17 points, and 16.9 points per game, respectively. Both seniors will be key defensively as well as they have combined for 34 steals and 25 blocks this season. The highly-regarded freshmen class will heavily contribute as well with Anastasia Hayes having led the team in scoring with 15 points in their win against Long Beach State.

A key player for Tennessee at both ends of the ball will be junior Meme Jackson. With all the talk surrounding senior leadership and freshmen potential, Jackson has flown under the radar and has put up impressive numbers this season. She is averaging 9.1 points per game and leads the team with 19 made three-pointers. Defensively, Jackson has tallied 16 steals this season. The junior will be another player that Stanford must keep an eye out on Thursday night.

Stanford will look to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to Western Illinois at home on Monday night. The win gave Western Illinois its first ever win over an AP Top-25 ranked opponent. Last season, the Cardinals finished out the postseason as a Final Four team, but this season is starting out much differently as they are 0-4 against ranked teams losing to Ohio State, UConn, Ohio State and Baylor. The Cardinals do, however, hold a five-game winning streak at home against the Lady Vols and will need home court advantage to help keep the game competitive.

The Cardinals will need to consistently make plays offensively to keep pace with Tennessee. They will look to rely on junior forward Alanna Smith who leads the team with 15 points per game and freshman guard Kiana Williams who has scored double-digit points in the last four games. The Lady Vols also need to keep an eye out on junior guard Marta Sniezek who will effectively distribute the ball as she leads the team with 48 assists this season. On defense, Stanford cannot allow Tennessee easy scoring opportunities as they face a Tennessee side that is averaging 88.8 points per game. The Cardinals will look to Smith on defense as well, as she leads the team with 20 blocks this season and will be a key player at both sides of the ball on Thursday night.

Prediction

Stanford will be playing a formidable side and have a tough task ahead of them. The Cardinals have yet to prove themselves this season while Tennessee has already notched a statement win against Texas. If the Lady Vols can limit their mistakes and jump over the mental hurdle of having a five-game losing skid at Maples Pavilion, then they will easily earn another statement win and leave California with a record of 12-0. Stanford has a chance of keeping the game competetive, but poor performances in early losses to ranked teams and a shocking defeat to Western Illinois show that this Stanford team will not be able to keep Tennessee from leaving Palo Alto with a win.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

Vols in the Pros: Week 12

With six players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, the contingent of former Vols in the league grew significantly. Let’s take a look at how former Tennessee stars performed during Week 12 of the NFL season.

Baltimore Ravens

Morgan Cox: Started his 113th game as a long snapper and contributed to the Ravens 23-16 win over the Texans on Monday night.

Carolina Panthers

Michael Palardy: Palardy punted six times for 284 yards, including two balls punted inside the 20-yard line in the Panthers 35-27 win over the Jets.

Cincinnati Bengals

Josh Malone: Malone suffered an in-game injury and recorded no stats in the Bengals 30-16 over the Browns.

Cleveland Browns

Britton Colquitt: Colquitt punted twice for an average of 46 yards-per-punt. He left the game with a possible concussion. The Browns lost 30-16 to the Bengals.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten: Witten had seven catches for 44 yards in the Cowboys 28-6 loss to the Chargers.

Detroit Lions

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Reeves-Maybin was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Houston Texans

LaTroy Lewis: Lewis is on the Texans practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Malik Jackson: Jackson had two tackles in the Jags 27-24 loss to the Cardinals.

Mychal Rivera: Rivera was placed on injured reserve due to a hand injury.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tyler Bray: Bray was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Eric Berry: Berry is out for the season after rupturing his achilles.

Zach Fulton: Fulton started at center in the Chiefs 16-10 loss to the Bills.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt had eight punts for an average of 49 yards-per-punt and downed two balls inside the 20-yard line.

Miami Dolphins 

Ja’Waun James: James was placed on injury reserve due to a hamstring injury.

New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara: Kamara had five carries for 87 yards, highlighted by a 74-yard TD run in the Saints 26-20 lost to the Rams.

New York Giants 

Jordan Williams: Williams is currently on the Giants practice squad.

Oakland Raiders

Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson recorded three catches for 72 yards in the Raiders 21-14 win over the Broncos.

Philadelphia Eagles 

Derek Barnett: Barnett recorded no stats in the Eagles’ 31-3 win over the Bears.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs: Dobbs was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Ramon Foster: Foster started in the Steelers 31-28 win over the Packers on Sunday.

Justin Hunter: Hunter recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Daniel McCullers: McCullers was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Cam Sutton: Sutton was activated on Nov. 21, but recorded no stats on Sunday’s game.

Seattle Seahawks 

Justin Coleman: Coleman had three tackles in the Seahawks 24-13 win over the 49ers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Robert Ayers: Ayers was out with a concussion and did not participate in practice prior to the game against the Falcons.

Luke Stocker: Stocker was inactive on Sunday’s game.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Edited by Seth Raborn