Georgia Hosts Kentucky, Vanderbilt
ATHENS, Ga. --- The No. 3 Georgia men’s tennis team (16-1, 6-0) returns to action this weekend for a pair of SEC home matches, set to welcome No. 9 Kentucky and No. 38 Vanderbilt to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The Bulldogs - riding an eight-match winning streak for the second time this season - will entertain the Wildcats in a top-10 tilt on Friday night at 5 p.m. before taking on the Commodores on Sunday at 1 p.m. for Senior Day. The Kentucky match-up will pit the only two undefeated teams in the conference and the current league leaders against one another, with the potential for another close match as five of Georgia’s last six matches have amounted to 4-3 victories.
Live scoring and the Georgia Tennis Live Chat will be available on Georgiadogs.com for both matches, in addition to live video streaming of all six courts, while admission to the match is free for spectators.
“Once again we are playing a top-10 team and it will be a big challenge,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “It’s something the guys are looking forward to. Kentucky is also the only other undefeated team in the conference, so it’s going to be a great match. The guys are excited and have been working hard. The fact that five of our last six matches have gone 4-3, we’ve been coming through in some close ones, so the team is getting seasoned and accustomed to top-notch competition. Hopefully that will be a difference-maker for us.”
SENIOR DAY ON SUNDAY: Sunday’s match will mark the final regular-season home match - and Senior Day - for the foursome of Sadio Doumbia, Wil Spencer, Will Reynolds, and Ignacio Taboada in addition to four-year team manager Matt Jackson.
The trio of Doumbia, Spencer, and Taboada all joined the program for the 2010-11 season after transferring from other programs, while Reynolds is graduating a year early after entering in 2009-10. He is one of only two players on the current roster (Will Oliver) to have played in the NCAA Championships the last time they were played in Athens back in May 2010.
LOOKING AT THE WILDCATS: Kentucky enters the weekend at 18-4 overall and 6-0 in the SEC, like the Bulldogs. The Wildcats are off to their best start to league play since going 8-0 to begin the 1988 season.
At No. 9 in the team rankings, Kentucky is led in the singles rankings by No. 7 Eric Quigley. He is followed by No. 18 Alex Musialek, No. 22 Anthony Rossi, No. 91 Tom Jomby and No. 117 Panav Jha. In doubles, the team of Jha and Quigley is currently No. 17 in the ITA poll.
Georgia is 39-7 all-time vs. Kentucky.
LOOKING AT THE COMMODORES: Vanderbilt enters the weekend at 7-9 (2-4 SEC) and will play at Tennessee on Friday before traveling to Athens for Sunday’s match.
The Commodores are led by Charlie Jones (21), Gonzales Austin (19), and Jeff Offerdahl (18) in the win column. Rankings-wise, Vanderbilt stands at No. 38 as a team while Jones is currently No. 47 in the singles poll and the doubles team of Austin and Alex DiValerio is No. 56.
Georgia is 46-4 all-time vs. Vanderbilt. The Commodores’ assistant coach - now in his second season - is former Bulldog and two-time NCAA champion at Georgia, Jamie Hunt (2007-10).
LAST TIME OUT: The Georgia men’s tennis team won its SEC-best eighth straight match last Sunday, defeating LSU 4-3 in Baton Rouge to complete a 3-0 week that started with last Wednesday’s upset of No. 2 Ohio State in Athens. Georgia moved to 16-1 overall and 6-0 in the SEC heading into Friday night’s meeting with the league’s only other unbeaten team – Kentucky. Georgia was paced this week by freshman Nathan Pasha – who went 5-0 on the week – while senior Ignacio Taboada won his eighth straight singles match and moved to 16-1 in dual match play with his win vs. LSU.
PASHA NAMED SEC ROOKIE OF THE WEEK (AGAIN): Georgia men’s tennis rookie Nathan Pasha collected the second SEC Freshman of the Week honors of his career after winning four more matches last week, the league office announced Wednesday morning. Pasha’s week was highlighted by a victory at No. 6 singles vs. second-ranked Ohio State last Wednesday that evened the team score at 3-3 before the Bulldogs went on to post the upset over the Buckeyes in Athens.
Pasha – who was also honored by the SEC back on Feb. 22 – has already won 24 matches as a freshman, including a 13-1 dual match record, a 4-1 clip in the SEC, and two ranked wins. He has gone 10-1 at the No. 6 spot for Georgia, currently on a four-match winning streak in singles.
Against Ohio State, Pasha defeated Connor Smith in three sets, after he had teamed with Sadio Doumbia to post a doubles victory as well. He and Doumbia are currently 5-1 in doubles action. Last weekend vs. Arkansas and LSU, the Atlanta native added two more wins to help the Bulldogs to their current eight-match winning streak overall and a 6-0 start to conference play.
IN THE RANKINGS: Following a three-win week that included an upset over second-ranked Ohio State as well as wins over SEC rivals Arkansas and LSU, the Georgia men’s tennis team (16-1, 6-0) rose one spot to No. 3 in the latest edition of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) weekly poll released late Tuesday.
Three-time defending NCAA champion Southern Cal remained No. 1, while Ohio State stayed at No. 2 despite the loss to the Bulldogs. Georgia, Virginia, and UCLA rounded out the top five while Duke, Pepperdine, Stanford, Kentucky, and Mississippi State make up the rest of this week’s top-10.
The Bulldogs have now been inside the top five in eight of 10 polls in 2012, while the No. 3 ranking ties Georgia’s highest mark of the season.
Individually, Georgia has five players in the singles poll as well as five ranked doubles teams. Senior Wil Spencer continues to lead the way at No. 8 in the singles rankings, followed by Sadio Doumbia at No. 24, KU Singh at a career-high No. 32, Ignacio Taboada at No. 33, and Hernus Pieters at No. 62.
In doubles, Georgia’s team of Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux sits at No. 14 this week, followed by Doumbia and Taboada at No. 23, Pieters and Taboada at No. 34, Doumbia and Nathan Pasha at No. 59, and Doumbia and Pieters at No. 68.
RECORD WATCH: Georgia senior captain Wil Spencer sits just three singles wins shy of reaching 100 for his career - having played his first two seasons at Texas A&M and his final two at UGA. Spencer’s combined career record at the two institutions is 97-44.
Four more wins would make Spencer just the 15th player in UGA history to win 100 singles matches, a feat that was most recently accomplished by Drake Bernstein and Javier Garrapiz last season.
Fellow senior Ignacio Taboada is also getting close to the milestone at 92-33 for his career that included two seasons at the University of Miami and two at Georgia.
ON DECK: After concluding the home portion of the 2012 schedule this weekend, the Bulldogs will play their final three matches on the road - traveling to Alabama and Auburn next Friday and Sunday, respectively, before closing the regular season at Tennessee on Sat., April 14 at 1 p.m. in Knoxville.