Old-timer, newcomer help to propel Georgia's run to the national semifinals
WACO, Texas -- Sixth-seeded Georgia advanced to the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship semifinals with a 4-1 quarterfinals victory Sunday against Stanford.
|2015 DI WOMEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Final: Vanderbilt Highlights|
|Hill: Vanderbilt wins school's first tennis title|
|Semifinals: UCLA | Vanderbilt|
|Hill: Defending champ UCLA to take on Vandy|
|Quarterfinals: UCLA | Georgia | USC | Vanderbilt|
|Hill: Redshirt decision pays off for Sharma, Vanderbilt|
|Hill: Old-timer, newcomer help Georgia into semifinals|
|Hill: Baylor's Burgic looks to rebound in quarterfinals|
|Hill: UNC, UCLA to meet in 2014 title game rematch|
|Hill: UCLA, USC focused heading into tournament|
|Bracket: Printable Interactive|
Last year, UCLA won the championship by edging North Carolina 4-3 at the Bulldogs home in Athens, Georgia. The Tar Heels wrapped up this year's campaign with a 30-2 record.
Georgia is led by head coach Jeff Wallace, who played for the Bulldogs under the legendary Dan Magill. Wallace became head coach of Georgia one year after graduating in 1985. Over the years, Wallace skippered Georgia to the national championship in 1994 and 2000, and to a runner-up finish in 1987.
The Bulldogs have now advanced to the semifinals 11 times under Wallace's tutelage, but the most recent occasion was in 2009. Florida beat Georgia 4-1 in the 2014 quarterfinals, as the Bulldogs were eliminated in the final eight for the fourth consecutive year.
"Our goal was to get past the quarters and go all the way this year," Wallace said. "We have a bunch of fighters out here, like Kennedy [Shaffer] you just saw. They are ready to play hard, all the way to the end, and find ways to get it done. That's what it takes. You have to have a team full of them, and we do this year."
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead after winning two doubles matches. The clincher came at No. 5 singles as Shaffer outfought Krista Hardebeck 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, winning s third set which had several match points. Shaffer, ranked No. 59, received a bid to the NCAA Singles Championship tournament, to be held May 21-25.
Shaffer did not sign on with the Georgia program until November 2014. She enrolled in classes on the Athens campus in January, and started practices. She made it to the finals of the USTA Girls 18 National Clay Court Championships in 2014. Shaffer considered signing with Southern California and Duke, before deciding on Georgia.
"It's the school, the facilities, the atmosphere and the legacy that is Georgia," Shaffer said, when asked why she decided to become a Bulldog player. "I didn't even meet the team on my official visit."
She continued about clinching the dual match for Georgia: "I've never been so nervous in my life. It's one thing to talk about it, and another to do it. To be in that position takes a lot. I was happy to get it done and get off the court."
The sun did come out over Waco, and play resumed at Baylor's outdoor facility. Top-seeded Southern California played No. 8 Baylor, and fourth-seeded Vanderbilt was paired with No. 5 Florida. The winners will play in the semis at 6 p.m. Monday, and the championship match is set for the same time on Tuesday.