Bulldogs Fall To Pepperdine In Quarterfinals
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia men’s tennis team narrowly dropped the doubles point and could never fully steal the momentum away from seventh-seeded Pepperdine as the Bulldogs fell 4-3 to the Waves in the NCAA Championships quarterfinal round at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex Sunday evening, in front of an announced attendance of 3,167.
Georgia – which entered as the two-seed – watches its season come to a close with an overall record of 26-3 and a 34th SEC championship in the books. The Bulldogs were playing in their 34th overall NCAA tournament, but fail to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009. Still, Georgia maintains a record of 90-29 all-time in the tournament.
“Pepperdine just played a great match,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “They really owned the big moments. They were composed. They brought their best tennis at the most important times. I have to give them all the credit. We all agree that we maybe could’ve played better. I think that a lot of that was the fact that Pepperdine played loose and aggressive. They played very composed in the most important moments, but we can’t hang our heads. This match could’ve been over an hour earlier, if not for the terrific effort from Sadio Doumbia and Wil Spencer. Ultimately, we just came up a little bit short in both of those matches. I’m happy of the way our guys represented our program.”
“I’ve had a lot of losses. They’re all tough,” Diaz said. “We’ve had some matches over here through the years where we wound up coming up short. It always hurts. Not so much because these guys didn’t win today, but because it’s their last match together. They’ve given up a lot, they’ve sacrificed a lot. They train very hard. They’ve committed to each other more than you can ever imagine. It’s something whether you lose or not, you can’t take it away. It’s painful because you don’t get another opportunity as a group to engage in that journey together. That’s the most painful thing when it comes down to your last NCAA team game.”
To start the day, the Bulldog team of Doumbia and Hernus Pieters dropped the No. 1 doubles match 8-1 to the 15th-ranked pair of Alex Llompart and Finn Tearney. But Georgia evened the score at one match apiece as the No. 2 team of Nathan Pasha and Ignacio Taboada snagged their match 8-5 from Sebastian Fanselow and Jenson Turner, before Pepperdine claimed the early point with a tight 9-7 win for Hugh Clarke and David Sofaer over Spencer and KU Singh at No. 3.
Georgia wound up dropping four of six first sets in singles, but continued to make things interesting throughout the night. Despite the four deficits they faced, Georgia won the first completed singles match to knot the team score at 1-1 as Taboada trounced No. 109 Mousheg Hovhannisyan, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 4 to pick up the 99th singles victory of his career. Taboada will get the chance to go for No. 100 in the individual tournament next week as he now stands with a record of 23-4 in dual matches in 2012 with 34 overall wins in singles.
Georgia then took a 2-1 lead as 19th-ranked Singh defeated 30th-ranked Tearney by a score of 7-6(3), 6-2 at the No. 2 position, marking his ninth straight win. The Bulldogs would take a 3-1 lead as Pasha overcame a first-set loss to defeat Clarke, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 5, but the Waves charged right back with a win at No. 6 – where Turner downed Pieters via a second-set tiebreaker, going 6-4, 7-6(4) to cut it to 3-2.
That left just court Nos. 1 and 3 still on, with Georgia needing one and Pepperdine in need of both to secure the upset. At that point, Spencer trailed Fanselow 3-1 in the third set and Doumbia was down 5-2 to Llompart with Pepperdine seemingly close to victory. The Waves even had match point on both at the same time at one point late in the match, but the Bulldogs continued to battle on the home courts.
Doumbia – down a set and 5-2 – came up with a hold to make it 5-3 in the second, then found a big break to cut it to 5-4 and held again to tie it. Llompart would then hold to make it 6-5, forcing Doumbia to hold his serve to complete the comeback and force a breaker. The senior did, and then took the decider 7-2 to send things to a third set.
On court one, Spencer trailed Fanselow by a break at 4-3 before starting his opponent’s next service game at 0-30. But Fanselow came back to hold and make it 5-3, and would hold on his next opportunity to close it out, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to tie the match at 3-3.
It would come down to the third set on court three, where Llompart drew first blood to break Doumbia early on and maintained it over the next few games. With Doumbia receiving down 4-5, he had to break to stay alive, and brought it to 15-40 and then 30-40 as he had two break points. But Llompart fought back to hold, claiming the match 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 6-4 to give Pepperdine the 4-3 win.
The season-ending loss was Georgia’s first since March – snapping a season-high string of 10 wins in a row. Meanwhile, Pepperdine extends its program-best winning streak to 24 matches as the Waves enter the semifinals at 27-6 on the season.
Georgia and Pepperdine are no stranger to one another in this tournament, with the Waves now 6-5 against the Bulldogs in the NCAA Championships – a ledger that includes a win over UGA in the 2006 finals.