No. 2 seed Georgia ready again to rock NCAA tennis championships

ATHENS — For a little while there, the horrifying thought of not being able to play in the NCAA Championships while hosting them entered the minds of the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday. But just as quickly, the No. 3-ranked and No. 2-seeded Bulldogs put that notion to rest and steamrolled Florida State in singles to advance to this week’s Round of 16.

Georgia (25-2) lost the doubles point in its second-round match against Florida State on Sunday afternoon. But in the matter of an hour it was clear the Bulldogs weren’t in mid-stumble toward a face plant. The Bulldogs quickly regained their balance and clinched victory with Wil Spencer’s 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles.

“When you lose your doubles it kind of gets your attention,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said. “When that happens you either raise your level or you just kind of get a little tense and play a little scared. We didn’t do that today. We played very assertively and confidently. We showed can handle a little adversity and swing for the fences.”

That’s good news for Georgia and bad news for the other 15 teams that will descend on Athens and the Dan Magill Tennis Complex this week for the 34th NCAA Championships

The Bulldogs have won six national championships in tennis, and five of those have come when they were hosting the tournament. Georgia will open play against No. 15-ranked North Carolina (15-7) — a 4-0 winner over Tennessee on Sunday — Friday night at 7 p.m.

“They’re aiming to win a championship,” Diaz said of his squad. “We know it’s going to be tough. We know there’s a lot of great teams out there. I feel like there are five or six teams that can win the national championship, and I think we’re one of them.”

Several teams will have something to say about. Longtime tennis rival Southern Cal (29-1) is the nation’s top seed. Virginia and UCLA are loaded likewise.

But the Bulldogs are as stout as any of them. They’ve been up and down in doubles but have a singles lineup that features five players ranked among ITA’s top 60.

“We’re so deep,” said Spencer, who is tops among them at No. 11. “It gives you so much confidence, that boost, knowing that these guys are right there.”

That power was on full display Sunday when the Bulldogs snuffed out FSU’s upset hopes like a flickering cocktail light.

“We came out with a lot of conviction and played lights out in singles and that’s pretty encouraging,” Diaz said. “You face adversity like this and you really convincingly make a statement.”

Georgia’s sixth-ranked women’s tennis team got a similar scare this weekend. Two years after suffering an upset at the hands Clemson that kept them from playing in the NCAA’s when UGA hosted, the Lady Bulldogs roared back to score a 4-3 victory over those same Tigers to secure their spot for this year’s event.

Sophomore Maho Kowase clinched the win for Georgia with an amazing comeback from an 0-6 first set, 7-5, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles. An “epic battle,” coach Jeff Wallace called it.

“For her to come back and win in three sets is amazing,” Wallace said. “She’s such a hard worker and such a fighter. I couldn’t be prouder or Maho and the entire team.”

15 comments Add your comment

General Ledger

May 14th, 2012
10:12 am

Go Dawgs! Good luck and bring home another championship!

Dawg Daze

May 14th, 2012
10:17 am

Good Luck Dawgs!! Bring it home!!

Why no comments

May 14th, 2012
10:40 am

Ga. Tech holds off Georgia

By Ken Sugiura

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Four days after graduation, Georgia Tech’s senior class received a priceless parting gift — a third consecutive season-series victory over Georgia.

Enlarge photo

John Bazemore, AP Georgia second baseman Levi Hymas, foreground, and Georgia Tech’s Thomas Smith lay on the field after colliding in the fourth inning of an NCAA college baseball game, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, in Atlanta.

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The Yellow Jackets subdued the Bulldogs with 12 hits, clean defense and a strong start by pitcher Josh Heddinger in an 8-6 win Wednesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech took the series 2-1; the Jackets are 8-3 against the Bulldogs in the past four years and have beaten the Bulldogs in seven consecutive games at Russ Chandler.

“Great win,” Tech coach Danny Hall said. “Anytime you win and win a series over Georgia, it’s a great win.”

Georgia accelerated its demise by allowing seven walks, tying its season high.

Tech continued its torrid hitting, strafing the Bulldogs with line drives and burrowing through seven Georgia pitchers. The Jackets, hitting .299 for the season, had hit .316 in their past five games. Eight of Tech’s nine starters reached base by a base hit. Daniel Palka, Zane Evans, Thomas Smith and Daniel Spingola each collected two hits. Smith and Kyle Wren both drove in two runs.

“They helped us a little bit, walked us some, but I felt we had good at-bats, good swings on ‘em,” Hall said. “I feel like we’ve been swinging pretty good, so it’s a good win.”

“We pitched poorly tonight, and I take the blame for that as we just can’t do that this late in the year,” Georgia coach David Perno said. “We wanted to keep some guys fresh for the upcoming South Carolina series, but we needed to do better tonight.”

Heddinger took care of the Bulldogs again after holding them down in Tech’s 4-3 win at Turner Field on April 24. Heddinger (3-4) went six innings and gave up one run, unearned, and four hits. In 10 2/3 innings against Georgia, the freshman from Buford High has a 0.84 ERA.

“I thought Josh Heddinger was really good,” Hall said. “Very proud of the way he handled himself.”

Georgia starter David Sosebee (2-1) lasted one inning and took the loss. The defeat ended the Bulldogs’ four-game winning streak.

The Jackets (30-19) also gained valuable RPI ranking currency in their effort to secure an NCAA tournament berth, which would be their 26th in 28 years. Tech’s RPI ranking as of Tuesday was 31st. The Jackets have won seven of their past nine. Tech reached the 30-win mark for the 30th consecutive season.

The Jackets likely will need to qualify for the eight-team ACC tournament to nail down a berth. They stand seventh, with series remaining against No. 21 Virginia and Miami.

Georgia (28-21), which ranked 41st in RPI, likely also has some scuffling to do to make the tournament, work that probably requires making the 10-team SEC tournament. The Bulldogs, in a three-way tie for fifth in the league, have an important home series with No. 4 South Carolina this weekend.

Playing before 2,382 fans, Tech started early by grabbing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Leading off, Wren scored on a single, balk, ground out and sacrifice fly. Palka scored the next run by doubling and then scoring in the next at-bat on an Evans double.

Tech broke the game open with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. Jake Davies, Palka and Smith scored as the Jackets produced only one extra-base hit (Smith’s double) and exploited three walks in the inning.

An additional two runs in the bottom of the seventh pushed the lead to 8-1 and blunted the impact of a three-run home run by Georgia’s Hunter Cole in the next half inning. A double play induced by pitcher Jarrett Didrick ended the threat.

In the top of the ninth, Georgia rallied by scoring two runs with two out and putting the tying run on first base. Alex Cruz closed the game by getting Levi Hyams to ground out.

Tech shortstop Mott Hyde, second baseman Smith and first baseman Davies turned four double plays, and the Jackets played their 11th error-free game of the season.

“I felt like we made good plays defensively,” Hall said. “In particular, Mott Hyde has been playing well.”

Said Perno, “As far as the double plays, it was just one of those nights, but we have to make

Dawg Haus

May 14th, 2012
10:48 am

Bring it on home, Dawgs!!


May 14th, 2012
11:09 am

always a great time of year in Athens


May 14th, 2012
11:58 am

Will be there Friday night! Go Dawgs!


May 14th, 2012
12:28 pm

Po’ lil’ Techies looking for validation.
I see you over there (pats lil’ Techie head) and I think you guys are Just Fine. There, there.

Bulldog Bates

May 14th, 2012
1:54 pm

Enjoyed the tennis in Athens this weekend.
Great venue and great environment! One of the security guards said something like – this is my first time to a tennis tournament, and it is as much fun as a football game. I agree – the stands were rocking and loud!

1 out of 15 aint bad

May 14th, 2012
2:40 pm

Hey Buzzzzzz, here is a pop quiz about your beloved Georgia Institute of Technology: How many athletic teams do they field with a winning record against UGA?

(My username may be helpful on this quiz)

Bama in Atlanta

May 14th, 2012
3:33 pm

Great venue for college tennis. My son was a ballboy there when John Isner was a senior and UGA won the title.


May 14th, 2012
4:30 pm

The ‘ol Blo Flies just gotta sneak anything in when they can….even when it’s one speck on the college sports landscape. Yech will always be the ugly little brother walking behind Chuck “UGA” Norris. Get used to it, termites!


May 14th, 2012
4:34 pm

@Why No Comments…..if it was important, there would be comments. It’s not (baseball?….BASEBALL?), so there isn’t.

Michael Jacobsen

May 15th, 2012
1:13 pm

UGa is blessed with two terrific tennis coaches; when Jeff took over the women I was on leave from UGa and teaching at Stanford, playing on their varsity courts regularly. The Lady Dogs were not highly ranked that year, but I told Stanford coach Frank Brennan that Jeff would turn the team around. The NCAAs were played at UCLA that year and I introduced the two coaches that week–and if I recall, they met in the finals. Stanford had the amazing Patty Fendick , but the Dogs made a great effort to reach.

Snoop Dawg

May 17th, 2012
8:07 pm

Now tennis, there’s a sport where we have adult competent coaches. It shows.
Contrast that with Richt and his cabal of amateur scheisters.
Wat a contrast!
Boys, we can do better than Richt and the likes of Mike Bobo. If it were up to Richt, Martinez would still be the DC today…


May 18th, 2012
6:08 pm

Awesome time and part of the Athens experiance—I remember watching a freshman from Stanford win mens singles–John McEnroe—GO DOGS !!