FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. --- The fourth-ranked Georgia men's tennis team used a road win over Arkansas Sunday to clinch at least a share of the 2013 Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. The Bulldogs defeated the No. 53 Razorbacks 4-1 at the Billingsley Tennis Center in Fayetteville, securing a 35th overall conference title and the program's 27th regular-season crown - the most of any SEC school.
For Manuel Diaz, it is the 22nd SEC championship in 25 seasons as Georgia's head coach (14 regular season, eight tournament). Diaz also won four titles as a player and three as an assistant coach for a total of 29.
Georgia has won eight SEC championships in the last eight years counting both regular-season and tournament crowns.
"The guys did a great job of coming out refocused in singles," Diaz said. "[After we lost doubles] they did a great job and have shown that they have tremendous focus when it's needed most. While we need to do a better job in some areas, we also know three of our guys were sick today and I'm proud of them for coming out and competing the way they did. This is tremendous for our team."
Today's win was Georgia's league-leading eighth in a row and 12th of the last 13 as the squad improves to 17-4 on the year and 9-1 in the SEC with just two matches to play. Arkansas falls to 12-14 (0-11).
After the Bulldogs dropped the doubles point to the Razorbacks with losses at Nos. 2 and 3, the team bounced back to take five of six first sets in singles play. The team score drew even at 1-1 as sophomore Nathan Pasha rolled to a quick 6-0, 6-1 win over Manfred Jeske at No. 2, and UGA took a 2-1 lead with a 6-1, 6-3 decision for Hernus Pieters over Mike Ward at No. 4.
Georgia's lead increased to 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 win for freshman Marco Nunez over Santiago Munoz at No. 5, and junior Garrett Brasseaux sealed it with his 6-3, 6-2 win over Victor Hoang at No. 6 to make it 4-1. Incidentally, Brasseaux also clinched Georgia's SEC title as a freshman in 2011 vs. South Carolina.
The Bulldogs can clinch the title outright with a win vs. Auburn next Friday night, or with a Tennessee loss today. The Volunteers are currently playing at LSU.
Georgia returns home to close out the 2013 regular-season slate against the Tigers and Alabama next weekend. The SEC Championships is set for April 18-21 in Oxford, Miss.
"Auburn is playing some very good tennis," Diaz said. "That will be tough match for us next Friday night. Then Sunday we have a good Alabama team coming in on Senior Day. We know the importance of finishing strong - we're going to continue to work hard in some areas and that's our focus right now."
#4 Georgia 4, #53 Arkansas 1
1. Gregoire Lehmann (ARK) vs. #11 KU Singh (UG) 4-6, 4-4, unfinished
2. #53 Nathan Pasha (UG) def. Manfred Jeske (ARK) 6-0, 6-1
3. Mike Nott (ARK) vs. Austin Smith (UG) 6-4, 1-6, 0-1, unfinished
4. Hernus Pieters (UG) def. Mike Ward (ARK) 6-1, 6-3
5. Marco Nunez (UG) def. Santiago Munoz (ARK) 6-4, 6-4
6. Garrett Brasseaux (UG) def. Victor Hoang (ARK) 6-3, 6-2
1. #41 Nathan Pasha/Garrett Brasseaux (UG) def. #35 Manfred Jeske/Mike Nott (ARK) 8-5
2. Mike Ward/Gregoire Lehmann (ARK) def. KU Singh/Austin Smith (UG) 8-6
3. Hall Fess/Santiago Munoz (ARK) def. Eric Diaz/Marco Nunez (UG) 8-2
Georgia 17-4 (9-1); National ranking #4
Arkansas 12-14 (0-11); National ranking #53
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,4,5,6)