©Colette Lewis 2008--
Last year it was the Virginia Cavaliers who were trying to derail the undefeated Georgia Bulldogs in the semifinals during their march to the national team title. On Monday, the scenario will be the same, but the roles reversed. Undefeated and top-ranked Virginia will meet the No. 4 ranked Bulldogs after their wins Sunday--another clear and warm day at the Michael Case Tennis Center.
Virginia had the tougher of the two tasks, with the ninth-ranked Baylor Bears giving the Cavaliers staunch opposition before falling 4-2. Virginia took the doubles point, with wins at No. 3 and No. 1, but Baylor came out strong in singles, winning three of the first five singles sets decided.
Virginia took a 2-0 lead when freshman Michael Shabaz downed Attila Bucko 6-2, 6-4, and at just about the same time, Cavalier Ted Angelinos squeezed past Baylor freshman Jordan Rux in a tiebreaker to take the first set at No. 6. Dominik Mueller put Baylor on the board with a 6-3, 6-4 win over freshman Sanam Singh at No. 4, but at No. 1 Somedev Devvarman was closing out Lars Poerschke 6-3, 6-2, giving Virginia a 3-1 lead.
At No. 2, Virginia's Treat Huey was down a set and a break, but he fought back to force a second set tiebreaker before falling to Denes Lukacs 6-4, 7-6(6), cutting the Cavaliers lead to 3-2. But that fourth point wasn't going to come easily for Virginia.
The two matches left on the court were Dom Inglot and David Galic at No. 3 and Angelinos and Rux at No. 6. Rux was serving out the second set to give the Baylor faithful hope, and Inglot had already taken the second set and was on serve leading 3-2 in the third.
The crowd, about 2 to 1 in favor of the Cavaliers, clustered around the back courts, with most of the attention focused on Inglot, since he was closer to finishing. The chants of U V A, U V A, U V A began in earnest when Inglot had two break points with Galic serving at 3-4, 15-40, but the Baylor junior reeled off the next four points, one on a delicate shoe-top volley winner to even it at 4-4. But serving at 5-6, to reach a tiebreaker, Galic's nerves began to show. A double fault put the score at 15-30 and a backhand return winner from Inglot on a Galic first serve on the next point gave the Cavalier junior his chance to end it. As the rhythmic clapping began, Galic missed his first serve and his second clipped the net and landed out, and the celebration began.
"As soon as I got that break in the second set, I felt the second set would go my way, and in the third set the momentum would be with me," said Inglot. "I felt very confident that I would clinch it."
Georgia started an hour earlier against the fifth-seeded Ole Miss Rebels, and finished off the SEC tournament champions 4-0. But it was three and a half hours before the Bulldogs could complete the task, with sophomore Nate Schnugg doing the honors at No. 2 singles with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1 win over Mattias Wellermann at No. 2.
"I was happy the way I came out in the third set and set the tempo early, breaking him the first two times he served and serving it out on my serve," said Schnugg, who lost only 12 points in the final stanza, but had wasted an opportunity to serve it out at 5-4 in the second set. "I'm not really sure what happened at the end of the second set....that happens sometimes and you have to rebound. I thought I did that well."
Christian Vitulli gave the Bulldogs their second point, taking out Bram Ten Berge 6-3, 7-5 at No. 6. Travis Helgeson chalked up point number three with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Erling Tveit at No. 1 and at No. 3, Luis Flores had clinching points against Ole Miss's Robbye Poole, but Poole held him off, winning a tiebreaker in the second set to send all eyes to Schnugg's court, where he held a 5-0 lead.
"I thought it was a great victory for our guys," said coach Manny Diaz. "We competed with a lot of energy today and really played some quality, quality matches up and down the lineup."
As for the Bulldogs now playing the role of underdog, Devvarman isn't sure that will make much difference in Monday's semifinal.
"I'm not really trying to think about what we did last year or what they did," said the Virginia senior. "I think all our guys are fired up, and obviously going into the National Championship as favorites. I think all our guys are going to come out really fired up. I'm really looking forward to a good match tomorrow."
For complete results, see the Tulsa website.
Sunday, May 18, 2008