The Georgia Bulldogs men's and women's tennis teams finished up the 2012 season deep in the NCAA tournaments, hosted by UGA at the Dan Magill Tennis Facility, both reaching the team quarterfinals. The men were upset by Pepperdine 4-3, and the women were defeated by 3-seed Duke 4-2. The championships went to the USC men and the Florida women. Bulldogs also competed in the singles and doubles tournaments following the team championship with a notable performance by the women's pair of Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist, who made it all the way to the doubles finals but fell to Stanford's Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs for the national championship.
The women (24-5, 9-2 SEC) finished up at No. 6 in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll, while the men (26-3, 10-1) wrapped up the year at No. 5.
Even the best of programs can't win national championships every year, Tuscaloosan delusions notwithstanding, and the Georgia faithful have several reasons to hold our heads high as the 2011-12 teams did outstanding jobs of carrying on the great traditions of UGA tennis. This season saw Georgia's men take an eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA quarterfinals and win a 34th SEC championship. Not too shabby. Senior Wil Spencer and Junior KU Singh were named All-Americans and first-team All-SEC. Spencer was named the Southeast Region's Senior of the Year, while freshman phenom Nathan Pasha was named the region's Rookie of the Year. Pasha also was honored with conference all-freshman recognition after racking up four SEC Rookie of the Week honors over the course of the season.
Seniors Spencer, Nacho Taboada, and Sadio Doumbia will be missed, but the future still looks bright. In addition to Pasha, Georgia returns Singh and Hernus Pieters and will be welcoming four new recruits. By virtue of the No. 5 final ranking, Athens will be one of the host sites for the January 2013 ITA kickoff weekend.
As for the women, senior Chelsey Gullickson became one of Georgia tennis's most decorated tennis players as she received All-America honors both in singles and, along with Nadja Gilchrist, in doubles for the fourth year. She won the NCAA singles championship in 2010 and was named the Southeast Region's Senior of the Year in 2012. Like the men, the women also will serve as a host site for next year's ITA kickoff weekend.
After stellar Bulldog careers, filling the shoes of seniors Gilchrist and Gullickson won't be easy, but we can look forward to the return of excellent players, including only one rising senior and four rising juniors. Rising sophomore Lauren Herring will certainly be one to watch, having been named the 2012 Southeast Region Rookie of the Year. The returners also include Lilly Kimbell and Maho Kowase who, as a doubles team playing the No. 3 spot, went undefeated (22-0) in dual match play.
While folks reasonably may express some displeasure here and there with the Georgia's other programs' coaching staffs, only the most unreasonable fan would have any complaints about tennis. Manny Diaz (men) and Jeff Wallace (women) have the UGA tennis programs in the kind of shape we expect them to be: among the best in the country. And both head coaches ought to know how it's done, having been Bulldog tennis players themselves under legendary Georgia coach Dan Magill. I reckon we should take comfort in the fact that there have been zero coaching problems in at least one Georgia varsity sport for 60 years.