Georgia’s women’s tennis team likes riding the momentum of a win in their last regular-season dual into the Southeastern Conference Championships.
But it wasn’t exactly a hard-fought, confidence-building victory.
The Lady Bulldogs beat Tennessee by forfeit last Saturday when illness reduced the Volunteers to three healthy players on match day. The forfeit also wiped out many of the senior day festivities.
“I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before,” Georgia senior Nadja Gilchrist said. “It was actually kind of sad for Chelsey (Gullickson) and I because we didn’t get to play our last home match. It was nice to still have the ceremony and everything, but it’s going to be a senior day to remember. It was very different. We weren’t expecting that at all. I felt bad for Tennessee, not being able to play and all their players being sick and all. But I’m definitely going to remember that senior day.”
Third-seeded Georgia (19-3) gets a bye through the first round of the SEC Women’s Tennis Championships, which begin today at Ole Miss.
Georgia will play the winner between Kentucky and South Carolina at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Georgia is also seeded No. 2 in the SEC Men’s Tennis Championships, which also start today at Mississippi State. Georgia’s men get a bye through the first round as well and await the winner between Auburn and South Carolina at 9 a.m. on Friday.
“I think we’re starting to play probably our best tennis, at least I’m hoping we are,” Georgia men’s coach Manny Diaz said. “That last match we saw signs that everybody’s starting to step it up and it’s the right time to do that, so it’s encouraging.”
The Georgia women’s home finale felt like getting an empty box for a birthday present. The team gave out T-shirts and coach Jeff Wallace sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the Georgia-Ole Miss baseball game to help promote senior day against Tennessee. The team had finished a tear-filled breakfast when word came that Tennessee had some players become ill and it wouldn’t be able to field the minimum number of participants for Saturday’s dual. Georgia still held its ceremonies for family and close friends in a sparsely-filled stadium. Wallace believes it was the first time in SEC history that a dual was forfeited because of health.
“We were all super-emotional at the breakfast,” Gullickson said. “We were all waiting at the courts when word came that it got canceled. We’d never heard of that happening before. We knew Tennessee had had problems earlier with a bunch of injuries and those things. But when they said our senior day was canceled, we were all like, ‘What?’ But we’ve still got NCAAs here, so that’s OK.”
Georgia has won seven of its last eight matches, including the forfeit against Tennessee.
“All our players are playing good enough for us to go out there and have a special weekend,” Wallace said. “The key is for all of us to do it on the same day and do it on match court. The team that can put that together both in the SECs and NCAAs is going to have a special year.”
Georgia’s men have been on a roll and they’ve been doing it in pressure situations. The Bulldogs are 5-1 in matches decided by a 4-3 score and four of those wins came against SEC competition.
“That’s kind of the character of this team,” Georgia senior Ignacio Taboada said. “We know that not everybody is going to have their best day, but the best part of winning those close matches, is everybody’s been in that last match. We’ve had a lot of different people who have won in that deciding match, so that gives us a lot of confidence. We know we’re going to get it done at the end of the day.”
Georgia blew through the SEC with a 10-1 record. It also won a 4-3 nonconference match against No. 2 Ohio State in that span. Its only loss is a 4-3 match at home against top-seeded Kentucky.
“We feel like we’ve been in that position where it comes down to the last match,” Diaz said. “I think our guys are pretty comfortable in that position and they kind of thrive on that. They have a very tight-knit relationship and this is a tight group. They know is that anybody can be in that position and they’re not going to let each other down.”R Soft Web Hosting