After tuning up for conference play with a 6-1 win over Furman, the sixth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team opened SEC action last weekend, beginning with a 6-1 win over No. 22 South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Friday.
The Bulldogs swept the doubles point, with the tandems of Hernus Pieters and Ignacio Taboada, and of KU Singh and Wil Spencer, dispatching their respective Gamecock duos by identical 8-3 margins. Sadio Doumbia and Nathan Pasha completed the Red and Black domination with an 8-3 win.
Though Pasha was part of the last doubles pairing to finish, he wrapped up his singles match more swiftly than his teammates, trouncing South Carolina’s Carl Eguez, 6-0, 6-0. Taboada (6-3, 6-4) and Doumbia (6-3, 6-1) also won in straight sets to clinch the Georgia win, but Singh had to overcome a 6-4 loss in the first set before taking the second (6-2) and third (6-1) to claim the match. The Garnet and Black’s Thiago Pinheiro bested Pieters, 6-4, 6-4, to avoid the shutout, but Spencer ended the competition on a high note by registering a 7-5, 7-5 triumph over Andrew Adams.
The men maintained their momentum on Sunday, when Georgia carded a thrilling 4-3 win over the hated Gators in Gainesville. The Bulldogs leapt out to a 3-0 lead, beginning by taking the doubles point. Though Pieters and Taboada fell, 8-6, to tenth-ranked Florida’s Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam, Singh and Spencer outlasted the Sunshine State Saurians’ Andrew Butz and Bob van Overbeek, 8-4, while Doumbia and Pasha got the better of the Orange and Blue’s Tripper Carleton and Spencer Newman, also by an 8-4 margin.
Unfazed by the staggering fact that multiple Bulldog stereotypes about the Gators were confirmed by the reality that the Gainesville netters field tennis players named Andrew Butz, Billy Federhofer, Spencer Newman, Bob van Overbeek, and (for Pete’s sake!) Tripper Carleton, Georgia proceeded to claim the first two singles matches, as Taboada (6-4, 6-3) and Pieters (6-1, 6-4) each emerged victorious in straight sets.
Then the Floridians made their move, with Carlton beating Doumbia, 6-4, 6-4, and Slilam defeating Singh, 7-6(2), 6-2. When Pasha fell, as well, in a 6-4, 7-5 battle with Mike Alford, the score was 3-3, and matters were not looking good for the Red and Black, as the lone remaining singles match appeared to be going the Gators’ way. In the first set, van Overbeek overcame Spencer, 7-6(4), and, while Spencer took the second set, 6-0, the Athenian trailed his opponent, 5-1, in the decisive third set. Spencer proceeded to earn SEC player of the week honors by winning six straight games, including a break, to notch the 7-5 win that improved the Bulldogs’ record for the season to 11-1, and (together with last month’s ITA National Indoors win over the Orange and Blue) upped the Classic City Canines’ all-time record against Florida to 54-18.
The weekend also saw the No. 4 Georgia women’s tennis team take part in a 6-1 match with No. 22 South Carolina and a 4-3 match with No. 15 Florida, starting with Friday’s victory in Athens over what I am going to call the Gamehens. Kate Fuller and Lauren Herring (8-1), Lilly Kimbell and Maho Kowase (8-2), and Nadja Gilchrist and Chelsey Gullickson (8-4) all won their tandem matches, and both Gullickson (6-2, 6-2) and Kimbell (6-2, 6-4) were winners in singles, as well.
South Carolina momentarily staved off defeat with Adriana Pereira’s 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Fuller, but the Lady Bulldogs brought home the victory with singles wins posted by Herring (6-2, 6-3), Gilchrist (6-3, 6-3), and Kowase (7-5, 6-4).
Unfortunately, the Red and Black female netters’ bid for a 2-0 SEC start fell just short when Florida claimed a 4-3 victory in Athens on Sunday afternoon. The Gator gals captured the doubles point with wins over Gilchrist and Gullickson (8-4) and over Fuller and Herring (8-6), though Kimbell and Kowase took down the competition, 8-3, in their tandem match.
Kowase tied the team tally, 1-1, with a 6-0, 6-3 demolition of her Floridian counterpart, but the Orange and Blue retook the lead, thanks to Fuller’s 6-2, 6-2 setback sustained at the hands of the
Lady female Gators’ Sofie Oyen. Gullickson knotted the score again by taking down her top-ranked (and previously unbeaten) opponent, 6-1, 6-4, but the Saurians surged ahead anew by getting the better of Gilchrist, 6-3, 6-3.
Kimbell made it 3-3 for the good girls with a 6-3, 6-2 victory, so it all came down to the final individual clash between a couple of Laurens, Georgia’s Herring and Florida’s Embree. Herring won the first set, 6-3, and Embree won the second, 6-2. Embree, the nation’s 23rd-ranked player, took the third set, 6-3, from Herring, the country’s 56th-ranked player.
Both sets of Bulldog netters will be back in action to work the Magnolia State circuit this weekend, with the ladies facing Mississippi State in Starkville on Friday and Ole Miss in Oxford on Sunday, and with the Georgia gents tangling with the faux Bulldogs and the
Rebels Black Bears at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the corresponding days.