Happy Cruellest Month, everybody! Well. Our friends in the Bluegrass
State Commonwealth have had quite a week for themselves, haven't they? Not only did Kentucky win the baseball series with Georgia this weekend, taking yesterday's rubber match in dramatic fashion, but they also defeated UGA in men's tennis 4-3 on Friday in Athens to claim sole possession of first place in the conference standings. And yeah, that other thing. The Wildcat women didn't fare as well against the UGA women's tennis team, suffering a 7-0 shutout in Lexington.
Sunday's tennis matches featured meetings with Vandy: the UGA women escaped Nashville with a 4-3 win, while the Bulldog men dominated the Commodores in the Classic City 7-0.
For what it means, how it happened, and what's up next, click on through.
First, your standings: Both Georgia tennis teams (men and women) now hold second place in the SEC East with the guys behind Kentucky and the gals behind Florida.
The men's 7-1 conference record also is the same as West leader Mississippi State, whose lone loss was in Athens last month and who travel to Lexington this Friday. At press time, we have no word on whether the BCS standings come into play in the event of a three-way tie for the conference's best record.
The women's conference record also stands at 7-1 and also ties them with the Western Division leader, but in this case, that's Bama, who hosts UGA this coming Friday. A quick look at the Eastern-leading Gators' remaining slate (Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina) reveals little hope for upsets that might give Georgia some leverage back into first place.
We're closing in on the end of the regular season with three matches to go before the SEC tournaments start on 4/19/2012 in Mississippi: Starkvegas for the men and Oxford for the women. The conference tournaments last through 22 April. May Madness begins on 11 May with two NCAA tournament rounds at various host schools before the entire party, both the men's and women's tournaments, converge on Athens 17-28 May.
Friday's men's match against Kentucky started off with the Wildcats taking the doubles point with strong wins at the 1 and 2 spots. The singles matches had barely gotten under way before they were suspended due to rain. After play resumed, Georgia's Hernus Pieters tied the score 1-1 with a win over Alejandro Gomez on the number 5 court 6-4, 6-1. At the 6 spot, Nathan Pasha gave UGA a 2-1 lead with his 7-6 (10-8), 6-1defeat of Kentucky's Grant Roberts. The visitors tied it up again at 2-2 with Alex Musialek's win over Sadio Doumbia 1-6, 6-0, 6-2 at the 2 spot, and KU Singh gave Georgia the lead again at 3-2 by defeating Anthony Rossi 6-4, 7-5.
The rain came back when the last two singles matches, at 1 and 4, were in their third sets. After another delay, play resumed indoors. Kentucky's Eric Quigley defeated Wil Spencer at the No. 1 spot 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, which meant that the entire match came down to Kentucky's Tom Jomby and Georgia's Ignacio Taboada at No. 4. It was a closely fought match, but Jomby emerged victorious 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-1).
I did not follow the entire match or the georgiadogs.com live chat throughout the competition, which took more than five hours to complete, but I did check in from time to time to see how it was going. Apparently, after the deciding point, Kentucky sophomore Jomby "tossed" balls in the Georgia crowd. I understood from the live chat moderator's description that he did so in a spirit that was something less than sportsmanlike. I would not be at all surprised to learn that the conduct of the fans in the stands was something other than welcoming to the visitors. I've been to only a few matches in Athens since I was a student 21 years ago, but if the home matches are like they were back then and with the conference lead at stake, I suspect it was a rowdy crowd. For those of you who never have attended a match, I would describe it as being something like basketball: you're close to the action; the players can hear what you yell; taunting happens. Say what you want about the appropriateness of such fan behavior (I don't mind -- this ain't Wimbledon, son), but I think it's clearly inappropriate for a player to engage the opponents' fans with projectiles. Call me old-fashioned. To be fair, though, it may be that most collegiate tennis players, including those for Kentucky, are unaccustomed to seeing the kind of fan support the sport gets in Athens. Plus, Jomby had just secured an important victory for his team. But still. According to the Red and Black, tensions were so high that the Kentucky team had to be escorted to the locker room by police. Yeah, this ain't Wimbledon, but it ain't no soccer match, neither.
Friend of both Blog and tennis program Vietnam Dog noted last week the concern over losses at #1 and #2. Once again, we lost at those two top spots. A the time Vietnam made the observation, I responded that we still were strong enough down into the pit to beat anybody on a good day. Well, I reckon Friday wasn't a good day. From where I sat at home, anyway, it felt like it was raining all over the world.
Meanwhile, up the road in Lexington, the Georgia women had a better time of it and defeated the Wildcat womenfolk 7-0. The Dawgs took the doubles point with wins at the 2 and 3 courts but suffered an upset at No. 1 as the eighth-ranked doubles team of Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist lost to unranked Jessica Stiles and Caitlin McGraw 8-4. That was the only bad news of the day, however, as each of the singles matches went Georgia's way in two sets.
On Sunday, the women were in Nashville to take on 25th-ranked Vanderbilt. Vandy took the early 1-0 lead by taking the Nos. 1 and 2 doubles matches. It appears our Gullickson/Gilchrist team is struggling a bit. The Bulldogs took the lead to 2-1 with singles wins at No. 6 by Lilly Kimbell over Megan Megan Gornet 6-1, 6-2 and #8 Gullickson over Jackie Wu 6-0,6-2. Vandy started to rally and tied the match at 2-2 when Kelly Radeva defeated Georgia's Kate Fuller 6-2, 6-4, but Maho Kowase got the lead back for the Dawgs at 3-2 by downing Ashleigh Antal 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Vandy's Marie Casares next defeated Gilchrist 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 for the 3-3 tie, but Lauren Herring came through for UGA by clinching the match, 4-3, in a win over Commodore Lauren Mira 7-6(4), 0-6, 7-5.
Sunday's men's match was the last regular-season event at home for the team, and they responded to Friday's disappointment by dominating the Vandy men 7-0. The Dawgs took a 1-0 lead by winning two of the three doubles matches. From there, the points piled up for UGA as Campbell Johnson defeated Joe Dorn 2-6, 6-3, 6-4; Spencer defeated Charlie Jones 6-3, 7-5; Pasha defeated Anton Kovrigin 6-1, 7-6 (11-9); Pieters defeated Jeff Offerdahl 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; Taboada defeated Blake Bazarnik 6-3, 6-2; and Singh defeated Gonzalez Austin 7-5, 6-4.
In the official site's piece, UGA Coach Manny Diaz said he feels good about the team's play, despite the Friday setback. All of the remaining SEC schedule is on the road: at Bama, at Auburn, at Tennessee, and at Mississippi State for the conference tournament.
The women will be at home for the final three matches, hosting the Tide, the Plainspersons, and the Volunteers, before heading to Oxford for their conference tourney. The Volunteers are in Athens on 14 April, same day as the G Day game, so it should be a good crowd. We're tossing the idea around for another three-sport Saturday. The gathering was a fun one in 2011. In addition to G Day and the women's tennis match against the Vols, there's a baseball game against Ole Miss that afternoon. There will be some overlap between events, but there should be ample opportunity to take in at least a sampling of all three. Mark your calendars and watch this space for more information.