THE MONDAY REWIND
It was an eventful weekend in Athens and for several Georgia teams. Let’s get caught up:
The men’s tennis team suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Pepperdine in the NCAA Championships. Playing before a raucous pro-Georgia crowd that filled the stands at Henry Feild Stadium, the No. 2-seeded Bulldogs were upset to the seventh-seeded Wave 4-3. Here’s Ken Sugiura’s MATCH REPORT.
This was one of those situations where you simply had to tip your cap to the opponent. Pepperdine really played out of its mind and played as good as it possibly could, especially at all the crucial moments.
Here’s what Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg said about it:
“Incredible. What a great college match. If you know me, I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I’m a little bit. Incredible match against such a great team. I’m so proud of the guys. We’ve never really been in this situation with this team in front of a crowd like that and how they handled that. Coming out and winning the doubles point, I was so proud of them for that. We’ve never played in front of a crowd like that before, especially here. Manny’s (Diaz) teams are so well coached and coming out and winning the doubles point, I thought was so big because I kinda thought, wow we can really do this. It made a believer out of everybody. I’m so proud of Alex (Llompart) for pulling that out after giving up that second set, and coming back against, to me, one of the best college players in the country. Great job by the Waves.”
Really tough loss for Georgia, which had assembled one of its best teams in years to make a run at a seventh national championship. The Bulldogs lose a couple of highly-decorated seniors in Wil Spencer and Ignacio Taboada, so they’ll have to rebuild a little bit to have a shot next next year.
Likewise, the No. 6-ranked women’s team lost to Duke in the quarterfinals. Certainly not as surprising as the Blue Devils were the higher-ranked team at No. 3. But UGA traditionally does special things when hosting the NCAAs. It’s too bad for the Bulldogs and for the NCAAs that they won’t be involved in today’s semis. The women’s final four commences at 1 p.m. (UCLA-USC, Florida-Duke) while the men get underway at 5 p.m. (UCLA-USC, Virginia-Pepperdine).
Georgia (31-24, 14-15 SEC) was unable to accomplish its mission in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this past weekend, which was to win two of three against last-place Alabama to effectively lock up an NCAA tournament at-large bid. As has been their penchant, the Bulldogs went down in excruciating fashion. In Saturday’s rubber game, they led 4-3 in the eighth inning before giving up a walk- and wild-pitch aided three-run rally and lost 6-4.
So as it stands, Georgia enters the conference tournament as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 5 seed Vanderbilt (29-25, 16-14 SEC) Tuesday night at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The game will be late, scheduled to start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 5:30 p.m. ET Florida-Auburn game
The Commodores are a tough draw for Georgia. Vanderbilt has had the Bulldogs’ number, beating them 10-0 to open last year’s SEC tournament, taking two games earlier this year and owning a 6-1 record in this event.
Redshirt sophomore LHP Alex Wood (7-2, 2.58 ERA, 95K, 19BB, 97.2 IP) and senior RHP Michael Palazzone (2-6, 4.89 ERA, 66K, 12BB, 81 IP) will start the first two games for Georgia. Wood earned his seventh win this past Thursday at Alabama (7 IP, 6H, 1R, 0BB, 8K) in an 8-4 win. Palazzone pitched his first complete game of the season this past Friday but the Bulldogs failed to score, falling 4-0.
Georgia’s men’s golf team did not play particularly well on its home course this past weekend but played well enough to finish fourth in the Athens Regional and advance to the NCAA Championships next week in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Needing a top-5 finish, the 24th-ranked Bulldogs shot 12-over 864 with a 12-over 296 in the final round to get under the line by a couple of strokes. Also advancing from the Athens Regional were Alabama (828), East Carolina (853), North Florida (858) and Iowa (866). Long Beach State’s Philip Chian (210) claimed the regional’s individual berth. Now, a year after a runner-up finish, Georgia heads back to nationals May 30-June 3 at the Rivera Club.
“At the beginning of the year, knowing all the new faces we were going to put in the lineup, I didn’t even know if we’d have a chance to make it to the regionals,” Georgia coach Chris Haack said. “To be able to not only make it but finish fourth and move on, I’d say it’s been a great year. No matter what happens, it’s been a great year.”
Probably the most impressive NCAA feat of the weekend was coach Lu Harris-Champer’s young softball team making it back to a super regional. The 10th-seeded Bulldogs (44-15) earned their sixth regional championship with a 2-1 win over North Carolina (43-15) this past weekend.
Now they will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., this coming weekend to take on seventh-seeded Tennessee (50-11). The best-of-three series begins Saturday afternoon at noon. The second game will be played Sunday at 1 p.m., with the if necessary game scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday’s game will be televised by ESPNU. Georgia and Tennessee split a pari of games in the regular season.