The second-ranked Tennessee doubles team won perhaps the match of the entire 12-day NCAA championships Monday — a three-setter with three tiebreakers — and claimed the second NCAA men’s doubles title in Vols history.
Reese, a Kennesaw native and North Cobb High School graduate, and Libietis joined the 1980 Tennessee team of Mel Purcell and Rodney Harmon as national champions with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) win over Ohio State’s fourth-seeded Kobelt and Kevin Metka at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
“Those tiebreakers are just the lottery,” Libietis said.
The match couldn’t have been any tighter —neither team broke serve — and the win couldn’t have been any more satisfying.
“I couldn’t imagine a better match,” Reese said. “We had a couple of break points, but we couldn’t do anything. That (match) could have gone either way and we’re very fortunate to take a win on that one.”
With Reese serving down 5-4 in the third-set tiebreaker, Kobelt went for a big return that sailed long. Reese then put Tennessee up 6-5 with an ace up the center stripe.
The Buckeyes won the next point to make it 6-all, but a double fault by Metka gave Reese and Libietis their second match point of the tiebreaker and fourth of the match.
“I didn’t feel bad for him (at the time), but now I do,” Reese said with a laugh. “In the moment it was more like, ‘Yes, thank you. That was the chance we needed.’”
The match ended on Kobelt’s miss after tough volley by Libietis on a ball that hit the top of the net.
“Like I said (Sunday), this was going to be something special,” Libietis said. “I couldn’t really sleep, all night it was in my mind, and the match was great.”
The NCAA championship caps a near-perfect run through the three major collegiate doubles tournaments in the past year. The Tennessee pair also won the ITA All-American Championships and lost in the finals at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
“We did have a great season,” Reese said, “but it’s hard to say we deserved it more than them (Monday). It feels nice to be rewarded for the season that we’ve had.”
The Vols had two break points in the first set, two break points (and match points) at 6-5 in the second set and none in the third.
The Buckeyes didn’t have a break point the entire match.
“A lot of times that’s the way the finals are, it comes down to one or two shots,” Tennessee associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. “I’m happy for these guys. This has been three years’ worth of work, really. We work on doubles a lot and these guys have embraced it, and they deserve all the credit.”