Despite constant wind and gusts eclipsing 30 mph, the No. 1-seeded Georgia women’s tennis team remained steadfast, defeating No. 8-seed LSU, 4-0, in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Friday afternoon.
Mother nature wasn’t the only obstacle at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Complex for the top-ranked Bulldogs as the Tigers, ranked No. 28, forced a split of the first sets after dropping the doubles point. Georgia obtained the 1-0 lead for its ninth-straight match, receiving wins today from courts one and three. The three Bulldogs – Elena Christofi, Vivian Wolff, and Meg Kowalski – that took first sets, stayed the course to earn singles victories, sending Georgia to the semifinals.
Georgia improved to 22-0 on the season with the Bulldogs’ win streak of 22 matches now tied with the program record set in 2002. Since the SEC switched to the current tournament format in 1990, Georgia has made it to at least the semifinals now 24-of-29 times. The Tigers fell to 16-11 on the season, and remained winless all-time against Georgia in the SEC Tournament at 0-7.
“The doubles point was really outstanding” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “I think our No. 1 team played their best match of the season. The No. 3 team got it done, and No. 2 was looking good, but No. 1 doubles today was really outstanding. In singles it got interesting there for a while. Everyone sees 4-0 scores, but that isn’t really the match. It was a battle. Elena [Christofi] got our second point for us, so we did get up 2-0 really quick, but everyone else was in a battle of hard-fought tennis. Vivian [Wolff] gets a set, and then gets down in the second set, but down 0-40 at 4-all, she comes back and wins that game. When she was serving it out she was down 0-40 again and wins that game for our third point. Lastly, Meg [Kowalski] was just fighting the whole time and got it done. Everybody else was just in a battle out here. It was a great match in some tough conditions with the wind, but it was good to see that we handled it well.”
On court one doubles, sophomore Katarina Jokic and freshman Lourdes Carle notched their best ranked-win together, cruising past LSU’s No. 15 duo of Eden Richardson and Jessica Golovin, 6-1. The Georgia duo broke all three of LSU’s serves and only gave one break back to the Tigers.
Georgia moved to 17-for-21 in taking the doubles point following the clinch on court three from junior Marta Gonzalez and Kowalski. The Bulldog twosome didn’t relinquish a service point and broke LSU to go up 3-1, and 5-2 en route to a 6-2 win over Keenan Johnson and Taylor Bridges. At the time of clinch, Christofi and Wolff, ranked No. 76 in ITA doubles, were leading 5-2.
In the first set of singles, the Tigers led on the first three courts 4-0, 1-3, and 1-3, respectively, while also ahead on court six, 3-1. The two courts Georgia was taking care of business was Wolff, up 4-0, on court four, and Christofi up 3-1 on court five. Wolff and Christofi stayed true, taking their first sets, 6-0, and 6-1, respectively, while Kowalski on court six turned it around. Down 2-4, Kowalski reeled off four-straight games to inevitably force the split of the match’s first sets.
Christofi, earning her eighth-straight victory, was the first court to finish, dispatching Johnson, 6-1, 6-2, for the 2-0 Georgia lead. Christofi, of Athens, Greece, upped her overall record to 16-5 with her 12th dual win.
Next, Wolff outlasted a battle between LSU’s Paris Corley as the match was knotted at 2-all, 3-all, and 4-all, before the Bulldog prevailed for the 6-0, 6-4 win. The Frankfurt, Germany native, ranked No. 62 in ITA singles, extended her win streak to 16 matches and moved her team-best win total to 28-3.
Kowalski’s seventh clinch of the year came after she won five-straight games. The Chicago product dropped a service game to go down 1-2, which must have flipped a switch. No. 96 Kowalski defeated Anna Loughlan, 6-4,6-2, to keep her individual record clean at 20-0, but more importantly advance Georgia to the semifinals.
The Bulldogs on the first three courts with the dropped first sets did not lie down, but continued to fight into the second set. Jokic, the nation’s top-ranked singles player, was on the verge of pushing into the third set, leading No. 8 Eden Richardson, 5-3, at the time of stoppage. Gonzalez, ranked No. 19, blanked LSU’s Golovin, ranked No. 61, in the second set and Carle was battling down 3-4 in hers.
“It is exciting for the 22-straight wins,” Wallace added. “We are also very excited for the opportunity tomorrow to play more tennis.”
In the semifinals, Georgia will go up against the host school, Texas A&M, Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. The fifth-seeded Aggies upset No. 4-seed Tennessee, 4-2, Friday afternoon.
On how she felt today…
“It was a really wind day today, but I just felt good starting with doubles. We didn’t finish, but were up 5-2, when we got the doubles clinch. Going into singles, I just tried to stay with my tempo and kept playing my game from start to finish, so it was a really good day.”
On what worked well for her…
“I was trying to be as aggressive as I could. I was trying to pressure her backhand, so that worked well in moving her around. That was my strategy today.”
On message from coach…
“Today was really windy, so that was the toughest part, but coach [Wallace] said that we just need to stay tough and keeping fighting, especially on those days, because you never know if you have to win ugly. With the wind, there are some points that you can’t control, so it is very important to keep fighting and stay tough the whole time.”