With a dramatic, 4-2, win over NC State on Saturday afternoon at the Goodfriend Tennis Center, 14th-ranked Tennessee advances to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2014.
With the chance to advance on the line, Adam Walton, the nation's 51st-ranked singles player, sealed the match victory for the Vols on court two over Igor Saveljic, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5. Walton's win sends the Vols back to Florida to face off with the Gators where it was Walton in the SEC Tournament semifinal, who eliminated Florida on its home court.
It is the 19th time UT has advanced to the Round of 16 in program history.
"I am really proud of our guys," head coach Chris Woodruff said. "We knew coming in to it that they have a really good team, we have a good team, and that it just takes a few breaks here and there. Adam Walton came through at the end but really it was a team effort. I told our guys that we have a lot of ways to hurt you and that the doubles point was really important. I am just very proud of our guys."
The Vols (22-7) kicked off the day with a doubles point win courtesy of No. 6 Preston Touliatos/Timo Stodder on court one and Adam Walton/Andrew Rogers on court three.
Touliatos/Stodder finished first in doubles with a 6-2 win over No. 44 Alexis Galarneau/Michael Ogden. Walton/Rogers clinched the doubles point and gave Tennessee a 1-0 lead with a 6-3 victory over Tadas Babelis/Yannai Barkai.
Touliatos continued his strong weekend with a, 6-4, 6-2, victory over Barkai at court five to extend the Vols lead to 2-0. The senior picked up wins in both of his doubles and singles matches this weekend.
NC State battled back to tie the match at, 2-2, with wins on courts three and four before No. 23 Stodder gave Tennessee the lead once again at, 3-2.
Stodder battled hard with No. 21 Galarneau going a full three sets. The senior won the opening set, 6-3, but dropped the second, 2-6. Stodder and Galarneau battled to a, 3-3, tie in the third set before Stodder took the victory, 7-5.
That's where Walton picked up the mantle and brought home the victory over on court two, sending Tennessee back to Gainesville next weekend and to the Round of 16.
The Vols travel to Gainesville to take on the No. 3 seed Florida Gators in the Round of 16. This will be Tennessee's third meeting with the Gators this season. The Vols notched a, 4-3, comeback win over Florida in the SEC Tournament semifinal just two weeks ago.
In its opening round match of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 20 Tennessee women's tennis team defeated Furman to move on to Sunday's Round of 32, 4-0.
The Lady Vols (20-7) will face the winner of Saturday afternoon's match between No. 12 seed NC State and VCU in the Round of 32. That match is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.
"Any time you play against a team who is so used to winning like Furman is, you have to come out focused and ready to compete right away," head coach Alison Ojeda said. "I'm really proud of our team because that is exactly what we did.
"We agreed back in August to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and that's precisely what we did today and it's what we plan to do again tomorrow."
Saturday's win over Furman (26-2) marks the first time that Tennessee has moved on to the Round of 32 since 2017 and just the second time since 2013.
Kaitlin Staines, ranked No. 124 in the ITA's singles rankings, clinched the shutout over the Paladins for Tennessee with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Katty Weymouth at the No. 2 singles spot. Staines has now won five of her past six singles matches.
"Going into today we knew it was going to be tough," Staines said. "However, we came out knowing how much work we have put in over the last few months and we were ready for whatever came at us today.
"Right from the very first point everyone stepped up. As a teammate I couldn't be more proud of the girls with their fight and how they all competed today. It was so much fun playing out there, and now it's time to recover and get ready for the second round."
Ariadna Riley won the Lady Vols' first singles match of the contest on Court 5 over Carol Elizabeth Kerman, 6-0, 6-1. Riley has now won five singles matches in a row, all at the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
The Lady Vols' other singles win came from Johanna Silva, who defeated Madison Dillon, 6-3, 6-3. With Saturday's victory, Silva is now 4-0 in NCAA Tournament singles matches dating back to her freshman season.
Tennessee won the doubles point behind victories at the No. 1 and 3 spots in the lineup.
All-American doubles duo Sadie Hammond and Staines clinched the doubles point for Tennessee, defeating Katarina Kozarov and Julia Adams, 6-3.
Hammond and Staines are now 19-3 together this spring.
"I'm so excited to be moving on to the second round," Hammond said. "I remember the feeling of losing first round last year in the NCAA Tournament, and it was the worst feeling.
"This year, we're taking it one match at a time and focusing on what we do best. I'm so incredibly proud of my teammates for our work ethic and fight on the court today. Everything we have done over the course of this year and season has prepared us for this moment. I can't wait to get on court tomorrow."
Tenika McGiffin and Riley, competing together in doubles for the first time since the season opener against North Alabama on Jan. 14, grabbed Tennessee's first doubles win on Court 3. The duo shut out Furman's Kerman and Georgie Walker, 6-0.