©Colette Lewis 2012--
A gorgeous day at the Dan Magill Tennis center came to an end Friday evening, with thousands of Georgia Bulldogs fans filing out into the night secure in the knowledge their men's team would be playing again in Sunday's quarterfinals, but not knowing who the opponent would be.
The second-seeded Bulldogs zipped past No. 15 North Carolina 4-0 in less than three hours, taking the doubles point at 2 and 3 and getting wins from Hernus Pieters at 6, KU Singh and 2 and Nathan Pasha at 5.
"I thought we played a great match," said Georgia coach Manny Diaz. "Frankly from start to finish I thought our guys were very strong and composed and were having fun. That's an impressive start for us and I'm really pleased."
Pasha, a freshman, was getting his first taste of the legendary support of Georgia tennis fans, as an announced crowd of 2,304 erupted with every point won by a Bulldog.
"It felt great, it felt really electric," Pasha said. "The crowd is so big and it just provides a lot of energy, so I have to do a good job of not getting too excited with everyone out there. I'm doing a good job of managing my emotions."
Pieters, a sophomore playing in his first NCAA on his home courts, also detected a difference.
"With 4,000 people, it is definitely a bit different," Pieters said. "I was definitely delighted when I won the match, very excited. It was a great feeling."
"The crowd just brings out the best in you as a competitor," said Diaz. "Whether you've got the majority of the crowd with you or against you. I think this is an environment all schools thrive on, and it's always fun and it adds a little bit more meaning to everything these guys are working for. It's why this is such a great venue to play tennis in."
#2 GEORGIA (26-2) def. #15 NORTH CAROLINA (15-8), 4-0 - Henry Feild Stadium
Head Coaches: Manuel Diaz (GEORGIA) and Sam Paul (NORTH CAROLINA)
1. Sadio Doumbia/Hernus Pieters (GEORGIA) vs. #20 Joey Burkhardt/Jose Hernandez (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 2-5, unfinished
2. #41 Nathan Pasha/Ignacio Taboada (GEORGIA) def. Cameron Ahari/Brennan Boyajian (NORTH CAROLINA), 8-5
3. KU Singh/Wil Spencer (GEORGIA) def. Esben Hess Olesen/Oystein Steiro (NORTH CAROLINA), 8-4
1. #11 Wil Spencer (GEORGIA) vs. #26 Jose Hernandez (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 2-5, unfinished
2. #19 KU Singh (GEORGIA) def. #92 Brennan Boyajian (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-3, 6-1
3. #32 Sadio Doumbia (GEORGIA) vs. Esben Hess-Olesen (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 3-3, unfinished
4. #52 Ignacio Taboada (GEORGIA) vs. Joey Burkhardt (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-6(5), 3-3, unfinished
5. Nathan Pasha (GEORGIA) def. William Parker (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 6-2
6. #60 Hernus Pieters (GEORGIA) def. Oystein Steiro (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-3, 6-1
Georgia's opponent in the quarterfinals, No. 7 seed Pepperdine, needed much more time to subdue unseeded Tulsa, finishing their 4-1 win nearly two hours later than Georgia on the McWhorter courts. But the Waves were definitely excited about getting their chance to play on the front courts against the home team in Sunday's quarterfinals.
"Our goal is obviously to win it, but a great thing is to play Georgia at Georgia, so that's really what we're most looking forward to," said Jenson Turner, who clinched the match for Pepperdine with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Alejandro Espejo at line 6. "I've heard from everyone that the Georgia fans are pretty intense, so actually we're pretty excited about it, not intimidated, just happy to be there, and we'll be free swinging."
After dropping the doubles point, Pepperdine had their work cut out if they were to win their 23rd consecutive match.
"We hadn't lost a doubles point since February and today it was kind of a shock to us," said Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg. "It took us a while to get that fight back in singles against a really good team."
The match was over three hours old when Pepperdine finally evened the match, with Mousheg Hovhannisyan taking 6-3, 6-4 decision at No. 4. When Finn Tearney earned a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over Clifford Marsland of Tulsa at 2, Pepperdine had its first lead, but Steinberg admitted to some anxious moments before that.
"There's a point there where doubt creeps in," Steinberg said. "For me as the coach, you see the scores up there and you feel like you're losing control of the match a little bit. But we've won 23 matches in a row, and these guys have made me a believer more than any team I've ever coached. So as soon as we got even a little bit of momentum there, again I sit there and say, wow, these guys are going to do it again. It didn't take much for me to get back that belief we could do this now, win four singles."
Pepperdine got its third point from Alex Llompart at No. 3 singles and with leads at both 5 & 6, could finally exhale.
Steinberg, whose team could not compete in last year's team event due to a self-imposed post-season ban when scholarship issues were discovered during an audit, was eager to have his team compete in Athens.
"Since I was a little kid, it was something I always wanted to be a part of, so here we go," said Steinberg, who led Pepperdine to a National Championship in 2006 with a win over Georgia. "We've talked about it all year. We have four seniors and it's what these guys live for, to have that moment. It's a major challenge--not only do they have a great team, but it's here in Georgia. But that energy from the crowd, obviously it helps them, but I think it will help us too."
#7 PEPPERDINE (26-6) def. #17-32 TULSA (20-9), 4-1 - McWhorter Courts
Head Coaches: Adam Steinberg (PEPPERDINE) and Vince Westbrook (TULSA)
1. #11 Clifford Marsland/Ashley Watling (TULSA) def. #15 Alex Llompart/Finn Tearney (PEPPERDINE), 8-6
2. Grant Ive/Tristan Jackson (TULSA) def. Sebastian Fanselow/Jenson Turner (PEPPERDINE), 9-8(4)
3. Hugh Clarke/David Sofaer (PEPPERDINE) def. Japie De Klerk/Alejandro Espejo (TULSA), 8-3
1. #8 Sebastian Fanselow (PEPPERDINE) vs. #117 Japie De Klerk (TULSA), 6-4, 5-6, unfinished
2. #30 Finn Tearney (PEPPERDINE) def. #97 Clifford Marsland (TULSA), 6-2, 2-6, 6-2
3. Alex Llompart (PEPPERDINE) def. #77 Ashley Watling (TULSA), 6-4, 6-4
4. #109 Mousheg Hovhannisyan (PEPPERDINE) def. Grant Ive (TULSA), 6-3, 6-4
5. Hugh Clarke (PEPPERDINE) vs. Tristan Jackson (TULSA), 3-6, 7-5, 5-0, unfinished
6. Jenson Turner (PEPPERDINE) def. Alejandro Espejo (TULSA), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2