Spencer’s comeback boosts Bulldogs
Bulldogs’ senior overcomes 5-1 deficit to win deciding match
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With the team match tied at 3-3 and Wil Spencer down 5-1 on the only remaining court, the senior rattled off six games in a row including a break for the match to give Georgia the 4-3 win against the Gators on Sunday.
The Bulldogs had gone up 3-0 on Florida by taking the doubles point and snagging wins at Nos. 4 and 5, but the Gators rallied with three consecutive singles victories to even the score. That left just Spencer and Bob van Overbeek on court, and Spencer pulled off the comeback to complete a 2-0 weekend to start SEC play and move the Bulldogs to 11-1 on the season.
“What a tremendous finish,” head coach Manuel Diaz said. “Our whole team showed a lot of heart today, and what a veteran effort from Wil Spencer. I was especially pleased with our doubles play today as well as with the bottom of our lineup. I feel bad for Nathan Pasha -- he played a close match today -- but he continues to impress. The bottom of the lineup just played lights out. Somehow we found a way at No. 1. I am proud of the guys and I know they are pleased to get out of here with a win. This was another great match in this great rivalry.”
Georgia won doubles for the 10th time in 12 tries this season with victories at Nos. 2 and 3. First off was the team of Spencer and KU Singh, who defeated No. 43 van Overbeek and Andrew Butz 8-4. They were followed by the No. 2 team of Sadio Doumbia and Nathan Pasha, who beat 18th-ranked Tripper Carleton and Spencer Newman 8-4 to seal the doubles point. On the final court, Florida’s eighth-ranked team of Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam handed Ignacio Taboada and Hernus Pieters an 8-6 loss.
The Bulldogs would extend their lead to 2-0 when Taboada downed Florent Diep, 6-4, 6-3, at No. 4 singles, and just moments later Pieters pushed it to 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Newman at No. 5.
But with Georgia in need of just one more victory for the clinch and four courts left, the Gators mounted a comeback that included wins at Nos. 2, 3, and 6 to even the score. First, Carleton defeated Doumbia, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 2 to make it 3-1, while Slilam pulled out the 7-6(2), 6-2 decision against Singh at No. 3 to cut it to 3-2. The freshman Pasha then suffered the first dual match loss of his career, falling 6-4, 7-5 to Michael Alford at No. 6 to tie it.
After van Overbeek narrowly took the first set in a tiebreaker, Spencer made quick work in the second, taking it 6-0. But in the decisive third set, van Overbeek mounted the 5-1 lead forcing Spencer to post three breaks in a row to capture the come-from-behind victory for the Bulldogs.
“[When I went down 5-1] I was just praying,” Spencer said. “I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, and I needed the guys behind me. They did a great job of cheering me on and getting me through it. The coaches told me if I could pull it out, this would be one we’d be talking about for a long time. The coaches calmed me down and told me to fight, and if it wasn’t for my teammates I wouldn’t have gotten through it. They showed they believed in me and that was huge. I wanted to win it for them.”
It was the first match clincher of the season for Spencer, who is now just four wins shy of 100 for his career.
The Bulldogs improve to 54-18 all-time vs. Florida after today’s win and the 4-2 victory over the Gators in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Indoors last month.