Austin Smith preserves Georgia's perfect SEC record, seals win vs. Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Georgia got the clinch from red-hot sophomore Austin Smith in a 4-3 victory against No. 17 Florida on Sunday afternoon at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex. The win was Georgia’s seventh in a row, moving the team to 10-5 overall and 5-0 in conference play. It also marks the seventh consecutive singles win for Smith.
“It’s another great win for our guys,” head coach Manuel Diaz said. “I feel great about this match, because Florida played well enough to win. As a team, we’re getting better every day and we’re getting tougher, and that’s the difference right now. We are finding confidence to raise our game in the tough matches. Right now, the important thing is for the guys to get some rest after playing five matches in 10 days. This was a grind, but it has made us better.”
Georgia started out with another doubles-point win, as the Bulldogs’ Nos. 1 and 2 teams prevailed against the Gators to push the squad out to a 1-0 lead. First off was the No. 2 team of Garrett Brasseaux and Nathan Pasha, who defeated the team of Mike Alford and Florent Diep 8-5. They were followed by the 21st-ranked team of Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters, who posted a tiebreak victory against No. 11 Elliott Orkin and Gordon Watson 8-7 (5) to seal it.
“The guys did a great job coming back from down a break at No. 1 doubles,” Diaz said. “Our No. 3 team was battling hard again, but it was No. 2 who were able to get that solid victory and reestablish themselves and play well today. Our No. 1 doubles team is on a bit of a roll now, they’re more comfortable and they’re serving and returning well, so it’s nice to develop some consistency there.”
Heading to singles, the Bulldogs and Gators would split first sets evenly at three apiece, while Brasseaux led Georgia to a 2-0 lead as he won his No. 4 match 6-3, 6-3 against Lipman. Wagland then fell at No. 2 to Diep 6-1, 6-1 as the Gators trimmed the lead to 2-1, but Nick Wood gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead with a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win versus Orkin at No. 6.
With Georgia in need of just one more point for the victory, Florida won the next two matches as Alford beat Pieters 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at No. 5 to make it 3-2, then Watson edged Pasha on a pair of tiebreakers 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to tie it 3-3 with just Smith remaining on court for Georgia at No. 3.
After coming back from a break down in the first set, Smith was able to do the same in the second, going on to win and clinch for Georgia with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory versus Diego Hidalgo to make it 4-3. He is now 27-9 on the season, 9-4 in dual matches, and 4-0 in SEC action with a seven-match winning streak. Saturday was the second clinch of the season for Smith.