ATHENS — I’m over here in the press box at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex watching the No. 6-seeded Georgia women take on 11th-seeded Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tennis Championships. The Lady Bulldogs won the doubles point, so it’s 1-0 and Georgia is up a set at all six singles positions.
Georgia Tech’s women’s team played earlier today and lost to No. 9 California 4-0. That ends the Yellow Jackets’ season at 16-12. The men get underway tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I’ll take this opportunity to catch you up on some other news happening in and around Athens and UGA sports.
I dropped by the UGA Golf Course before here to catch the end of the NCAA Athens Regional. Georgia is hosting 12 other teams in that event, with the top five advancing to nationals. They’ll play 36 more over the next two days to determine which teams advance.
The Bulldogs had a so-so day, closing strong to finish at 4-under as a team and in fourth place. But they were shown up by some visitors, including top-seeded Alabama, which came in with a blistering 15-under, and North Florida, which is two back at 13-under. East Carolina is in third with an 8-under team total.
“I think the faster the start you have, the more relaxed you become,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “If you get off to a poor start, you start thinking about what can happen. But a good start kept us in the golf frame of mind instead of the qualifying frame of mind. All five guys got off to a good start, and I’m really proud of them.”
Bama’s start got Georgia’s attention. The Bulldogs closed strong, with junior T.J. Mitchell making birdies on three of his last four holes to shoot and 68 and Brian Carter rallying for a 69.
“I looked at the scoreboard through nine holes and I saw Alabama was tearing it up and I saw we were just hanging in there,” said Mitchell, Georgia’s elder statesman. “We knew there were some birdies on the back. I was hitting good shots, just not making any putts and they started falling.”
The star of the day was North Florida’s Kevin Aylwin, who shot a round of 65 that included an eagle on the par-4 11th hole then three straight birdies.
“I holed out on 11 from 87 yards, and that pretty much got me started. There’s a little bit of luck involved, but it definitely was a jump start for me. … I thought I was doing pretty well, then I started to hear that everybody else was doing well, so that felt great.”
While making the top five remains the ultimate goal, the Bulldogs insist they are still in it to win. Their aim is to run down Alabama, a team they played every round with at the SEC Championships on Sea Island.
“We’re just as good as they are,” Mitchell said. “They’re playing well. We’re starting to play well. But we know we’re just as good they are. We see what’s out there and we’re going to go out there and make as birdies as we can.”
Another NCAA event begins Friday as Georgia’s No. 11-ranked women’s softball team gets the top seed in the Athens Regional. The Bulldogs (41-15) take on Big South Tournament champion Coastal Carolina (43-18) at 5 p.m. while North Carolina (41-13) gets Southern Conference regular-season and tournament champion Georgia Southern (42-18) at 2 p.m.