STANFORD, Calif. — Sixth-ranked Georgia dropped the doubles point but responded with three first-set singles wins before junior Wil Spencer provided the third-set clincher on court one, giving the Bulldogs a 4-3 victory against SEC rival Tennessee on Saturday at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center. With the win, Georgia earned a place in the NCAA semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons.
Georgia jumped to 24-5 on the season, and ended Tennessee’s season at the same 24-5 mark. The Bulldogs effectively avenged two losses to the Vols earlier in the year with the win, coming through on the big stage.
Georgia today snapped a five-match losing streak to UT to move to 46-23 all-time in the series.
“This is being a Bulldog – you have that family and support and I wanted to win it for the team,” Spencer said. “We’ve worked hard all year and there was no way I was going to give up. It was a great team effort. I got the win there at the end, but if it wasn’t for the three other guys it wouldn’t have happened.”
“I’ve never seen so many dramatic turns in a match,” added coach Manuel Diaz. “Both [No. 1 players] played with tremendous courage. Tennessee whipped us in doubles. I was upset at the midway point because we didn’t come out there and play free. Tennessee just whipped us. I was impressed with the way we came out in singles and quickly went up breaks on I think four courts. At the end there with the two courts left I would’ve been happy with our effort, the way we competed and went about our business after doubles. Wil Spencer had a tremendous performance. I told him when he was cramping at the end, this is what great stories are made of.”
The Bulldogs will face two-time defending national champion Southern California in Monday’s semifinal at 3 p.m. ET, with the match to include the last four NCAA champions as Georgia won in 2007 and 2008 and the Trojans took the title in each of the last two seasons.
The Volunteers started like they had in each of the teams’ previous two meetings in 2011, taking a 1-0 lead after capturing the doubles point. The first win came by an 8-4 score at No. 1, as the top-ranked team of JP Smith and Boris Conkic downed No. 6 Javier Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters. Court three would end the same way, with Matteo Fago and Ed Jones defeating Drake Bernstein and Spencer 8-4 to seal the point. Court two was suspended with Georgia’s Sadio Doumbia and Ignacio Taboada on serve at 6-5 with Tennys Sandgren and Rhyne Williams.
But the Bulldogs came out calm and collected to start singles, picking up early breaks on several courts before eventually winning the first on three while Tennessee would take three of its own and the day far from finished.
Tennessee pushed its lead to 2-0 as Conkic dispatched Bernstein 6-3, 6-1 on court four. But Georgia would draw things even with continued strong play from its bottom third, getting straight-set decisions from Taboada and Pieters to make it 2-2.
Georgia then took its first lead of the day with a win at three, as Doumbia beat Sandgren for the second time this season by a score of 6-2, 6-2. The Vols then tied it again with a 7-5, 7-5 win on two as third-ranked Williams downed Garrapiz.
That left only court one still on, where No. 18 Spencer and No. 11 Smith had split first sets and were going blow for blow to stay on serve in the third. Spencer held at 5-5 and came back to get the set’s first break to come away with it, earning the 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 decision over the four-time All-American to give Georgia the 4-3 win over its familiar foe.
The six-time national champion Bulldogs have now won 23 of their last 25 matches in the NCAA Championships, with an all-time record of 87-27 in the tournament.