©Colette Lewis 2007--
The top-seeded Georgia Bulldogs captured their second consecutive ITA Men's Team Indoor championship with a 4-0 decision over the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes at the Midtown Tennis Club Monday afternoon.
It was senior John Isner who got the fourth point for the Bulldogs, but it was Georgia's super freshmen Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg paving the way.
After the Bulldogs took the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2, Hunt quickly gave Georgia its second point at No. 6 with a 6-3, 6-1 thrashing of Drew Eberly. Schnugg, Hunt's doubles partner, wasn't far behind with his contribution, a 6-4, 6-3 win over Justin Kronauge at No. 5. Ohio State was up a set at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, but with Isner up a set and a break against Bryan Koniecko at No. 1, all eyes turned to the 6-foot-9 inch righthander. Koniecko held to make it 5-4, requiring Isner to serve it out for the team championship.
"When I saw coach come over from the other courts, I knew it was up to me," said Isner. "I started out a little shaky, double faulted the first point, and suddenly found myself down 15-40 when he hit a couple of good returns. But I did what I know how to do best and that's hit big serves."
Isner wasn't exaggerating, and four big serves later, he had overpowered Koniecko to start the celebration for the Bulldogs.
"To clinch this tournament was an awesome, awesome feeling, one of the best of feelings of my college career for sure," Isner said. "I think it was first clinch of any tournament for me."
"John's such a team player and so willing to win the big matches for you," said Georgia coach Manny Diaz. "He's one of the clutchest players we've ever had in our program and it was just fitting that he was the last match of the tournament."
"After we got through the Virginia match (in the semifinals Sunday), I think we just decided to play a little bit more free," said Diaz. "After we overcame that, it gave us a lot of confidence that we could handle our nerves."
For Ohio State, in its first National Championship final, it was a disappointing end, but coach Ty Tucker didn't make any excuses.
"Georgia gave us a good old-fashioned lesson today," Tucker said. "We talked last night that we were only going to get one opportunity against a team like Georgia and in every match we had an opportunity, but didn't take it. We'll go back to the courts and the weight room and find a way to get 25 percent better by May."
The Bulldogs are also focusing on May's NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., and Isner admits the pressure is on Georgia, now unquestionably the favorite for the team title.
"There's so much expected of you," Isner said, "but we've taken on the role well. And the freshmen have stepped up huge. They didn't lose a match in the tournament; they played like seniors out here. We knew everyone would be gunning for us and we had to be on top of our game."
Those at the Midtown Tennis Club watching the Bulldogs on the Presidents Day holiday, know who is ruling college tennis right now.
Monday, February 19, 2007