ATHENS, Ga. – North Carolina junior Jose Hernandez heard the announced attendance – 2,304 – and responded with raised eyebrows: “Wow.”
More than 2,000 fans turned out Friday night to cheer UGA's men's tennis team into the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photos courtesy of C.B. Schmelter/UGA Sports Communications)
With roars cascading from a crowded grandstand, Georgia’s fans were as advertised Friday night during the NCAA championships, and so was their team.
The second-seeded Bulldogs showed up in all black and turned out the lights on the No. 15 seed Tar Heels, not dropping a set during a 4-0 victory that lasted barely two-and-a-half hours and assured quick passage into Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinals.
“We played, from start to finish, a very complete match,” UGA coach Manuel Diaz said. “I thought our guys were very strong and composed and were having fun. That’s an impressive start for us. I’m really pleased.”
Georgia (26-2) won the doubles point and never let underdog North Carolina (15-8) get a foothold in any of the singles matches, winning the first set in all six.
In the end, the only real suspense was which Bulldogs would be first to the finish line. Victories were notched by Hernus Pieters at No. 6 singles (6-3, 6-1), KU Singh at No. 2 (6-3, 6-1) and freshman Nathan Pasha at No. 5 (6-2, 6-2).
“We played a really tough schedule this year, and I mean, they put it to us,” North Carolina coach Sam Paul said. “They played a great match. … I was really impressed with 5 and 6. They don’t make any unforced errors. It’s the control, playing every shot with such discipline. Both of those guys played lights-out and didn’t give us many opportunities.”
“It’s definitely a very deep lineup,” Diaz said. “These guys have provided a lot of wins this year. We’ve always traditionally had great depth. That’s a staple. We don’t really drop off a whole lot, and I think that’s one of our strengths this year.”
The SEC freshman of the year, Pasha improved to 22-2 in dual matches this season, with 21 of those victories coming at the No. 5 or No. 6 spot. Pieters is now 21-5 in his dual singles matches this season.
UGA's KU Singh won his match at No. 2 singles.
Pasha’s victory clinched the match and elicited more cheers from a crowd that didn’t have too long of a wait.
“It felt really electric,” Pasha said. “The crowd is so big, and it provides a lot of energy.”
The Bulldogs’ victory was one of the final two matches during a rain-free second day at the NCAA championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
It was also the only victory Friday for the Southeastern Conference, which had No. 6 seed Kentucky (to Stanford), No. 12 Florida (to Ohio State) and No. 13 Ole Miss (to UCLA) bow out in the NCAA’s Round of 16.
“We’re playing probably some of the best tennis we have all year,” Diaz said, “and it’s too bad that we’re the only SEC schools, but we take pride in being a top program in our conference. We’re just going to try to keep going and carry our banner high.”
No. 1 seed Southern Cal, No. 8 seed Duke and No. 3 seed Virginia joined Stanford, Ohio State, UCLA and UGA in advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Georgia will face the winner of Friday night’s late match between No. 7 seed Pepperdine (25-6) and unseeded Tulsa (20-8), which is still being played at the McWhorter Courts.
UPDATE: Pepperdine has defeated Tulsa to advance into Sunday's quarterfinal against Georgia.
GEORGIA 4, NORTH CAROLINA 0
1. #11 Wil Spencer (UGA) vs. #26 Jose Hernandez (UNC) 6-1, 2-5, unfinished
2. #19 KU Singh (UGA) def. #92 Brennan Boyajian (UNC) 6-3, 6-1
3. #32 Sadio Doumbia (UGA) vs. Esben Hess-Olesen (UNC) 6-2, 3-3, unfinished
4. #52 Ignacio Taboada (UGA) vs. Joey Burkhardt (UNC) 7-6 (0-5), 3-3, unfinished
5. Nathan Pasha (UGA) def. William Parker (UNC) 6-2, 6-2
6. #60 Hernus Pieters (UGA) de. Oystein Steiro (UNC) 6-3, 6-1
1. Hernus Pieters/Sadio Doumbia (UGA) vs. #20 Joey Burkhardt/Jose Hernandez (UNC) 4-7, unfinished
2. #40 Nathan Pasha/Ignacio Taboada (UGA) def. Brennan Boyajian/Cameron Ahari (UNC) 8-5
3. KU Singh/Wil Spencer (UGA) def. Esben Hess-Olesen/Zach Hunter (UNC) 8-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (6,2,5)