The Georgia women’s tennis team came into its Southeastern Conference tournament semifinal against Texas A&M having surrendered only one point in its previous nine matches and had run through the SEC regular season losing only six points in 13 matches. The No. 1 Bulldogs added to that impressive streak with a 4-0 victory over the Aggies, but not before experiencing at least a few struggles against No. 19 A&M.
Georgia will play South Carolina, a 4-1 winner over Vanderbilt, in the final at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Mitchell Tennis Center.
“There have been a lot of these this year where we found a way to win 4-0, but it’s just an epic battle,” Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said. “We played [A&M] in Athens, and it was under two hours, a pretty quick match, but not today. It was a good match.”
The Bulldogs closed out the doubles point at 6-3 on the No. 3 line after splitting the top two lines and got a 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 5 from Elena Christofi to go up 2-0.
After that, there were no easy victories, with two matches in the third set and A&M leading in a third after Vivian Wolff won 6-4 in the third set at No. 4 and Lourdes Carle won the last two games of both sets to win 6-4, 6-4 at No. 3 to clinch Georgia’s program-best 23rd straight victory.
“Any time you are playing the No. 1 team in the nation, it’s hard to find four wins in the singles,” A&M coach Mark Weaver said. “But at the end of the day a very, very competitive tennis match in five of the six singles matches. Kind of one of those things that pretty much could have gone either way.”
A&M (22-7) failed to get more than three games in a set, doubles or singles, in their March 8 meeting in Athens.
“I think it’s a huge improvement from when we played them five or six weeks ago,” Weaver said. “It wasn’t a very competitive match at all. Today we gave them just about everything they could handle, maybe not quite to that point, but it was a very competitive match.”
A&M was unable to put the finishing touches on the Bulldogs in the opportunities it did have to post a point.
The Aggies’ Renee McBryde didn’t win a game until the second set and evened the third set at 4-4 after trailing 4-1 but managed only a couple of points the remainder of the way. Tatiana Makarova led both sets 4-3 at No. 3 but was unable to get any closer to extending the match.
“That was one of the messages today was when you get the lead, you have to find a way to put the hammer down,” Weaver said. “They are confident in every position, and they sure are not going to give us anything, and the message was when we do get our leads, we have to capitalize on that and we just weren’t quite able to do that. Not that we necessarily backed away on the big points, but we may have left it up to them a little bit more to determine what might happen.”
A&M won two first sets in the singles. Freshman Katya Townsend took the lead on Katarina Jokic, the nation’s top-ranked player, and freshman Jayci Goldsmith won a tiebreaker over No. 19 Marta Gonzalez.
“We were up a set and 4-3 at No. 1, and we actually won at 2 [in the regular season],” Wallace said. “But out there [today] we are battling and it’s great tennis, and it’s good for our players. It’s what we all need. It’s how we get better.
Jokic won the second set and was leading 2-1 when Georgia clinched, while Goldsmith was up 3-2 in the second set. The third unfinished match was at No. 6, where A&M’s Lucia Quiterio and Georgia’s Meg Kowalski, who is undefeated on the season, were tied at 3-3 in the third.
“Katya played Jokic, who basically has been the best player in college tennis all year, and basically it was a 50-50 match there when we stopped, and Jayci had a rough couple of last days and she was playing a top 20 player in the nation, and by the end of the match, we are leading there and looking pretty good about things,” Weaver said. “It’s just another great experience for us. Another step in the right direction. We’ll take a couple of days offb get back to work, and we’ll make a great run at the NCAA tournament.”