It was another rain delayed, on the edge of your seat match for the Georgia men’s tennis team in the NCAA Championships, but despite a tremendous comeback, the Bulldogs fell to No. 9 North Carolina in the Semifinals on Monday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The Bulldogs (22-8) were three points from elimination in the second set of Jan Zielinski’s match before Zielinski rallied from down 4-0 in the tiebreaker to win in three sets and tie the match at 3-all. Georgia had previously gotten singles wins from Walker Duncan and Nathan Ponwith, and it came down to the sixth court, where Robert Loeb fell 6-3 in the third set. The Tar Heels (29-4) advance to play 2nd-seeded Virginia in the championship match Tuesday at 1 p.m.
“I thought [Robert] played a great match,” said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz. “He is a freshman, and he is out there on the biggest stage in college tennis, it’s a big, big match, and I think that he maybe missed three balls by a total of one inch. It is different in winning and losing that match. I don’t feel sorry for him. It has been a great experience for him and for our team. You know, today, those couple of shots didn’t go our way, and if they do, we win our match, but all the credit goes to North Carolina. They did a tremendous job, you know just hanging in there after we took that momentum away. They won a very close match to get that victory. They deserve all the credit. They are a great team, and we wish them the best.”
In the previous two rounds, Georgia had come from behind against No. 4 Southern California and 5th-seeded UCLA after losing the doubles point but were unable to overcome the deficit against UNC. An impressive season comes to an end for Georgia, who captured a share of the SEC regular-season title and went on to win the SEC Tournament. Despite starting the season 3-5, the Bulldogs had won 19 of their last 21 matches entering Monday’s loss.
Duncan put the first point on the board for Georgia against UNC to make it 2-1, as he moved quickly to a 6-1, 7-5 victory at No. 5. Duncan holds a team-best 21-5 in dual matches, including 4-0 in the NCAA Championships. Ponwith was next for the Bulldogs, making the score 3-2.
Zielinski’s comeback in the tiebreaker and Ponwith’s win came within 10 minutes of each other, and Georgia went from being three points away from elimination to being able to win the match if Zielinski and Loeb could win their third sets. Play was halted for four hours with Zielinski and Loeb not far into their final frames, and the matches were continued indoors.
Zielinski cruised to win the set, 6-3, and even the match at 3-3, while Loeb was serving with a 2-1 lead in the third set. He dropped the next game, which made it 2-2, and the set stayed on-serve until Bo Boyden broke to make it 5-3. Boyden held serve in the following game to seal the victory.
Following Tuesday’s team championship matches, NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship action will begin at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. In the singles draw, Ponwith, Wayne Montgomery and Emil Reinberg will represent the Bulldogs, while Loeb and Zielinski received the top seed in the doubles draw. The first round of singles will be held starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 24, and the first round of doubles beginning at the same time Thursday. The singles and doubles championships will be held at noon on Monday, May 29.
NCAA MEN’S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Results from Semifinals
Dan Magill Tennis Complex
1. #12 William Blumberg/ Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #1 Jan Zielinski/Robert Loeb (GEORGIA), 6-3
2. #82 Jack Murray/Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #67 Emil Reinberg/ Nathan Ponwith (GEORGIA), 7-5
3. Wayne Montgomery/ Walker Duncan (GEORGIA) def. Anu Kodali/ Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2
1. #56 Nathan Ponwith (GEORGIA) def. #22 Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-6 (4), 6-2
2. #16 William Blumberg (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #33 Wayne Montgomery (GEORGIA), 6-3, 6-2
3. #116 Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #59 Emil Reinberg (GEORGIA), 6-3, 6-4
4. Jan Zielinski (GEORGIA) def. Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3
5. Walker Duncan (GEORGIA) def. Jack Murray (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 7-5
6. Bo Boyden (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Robert Loeb (GEORGIA), 7-6 (0), 4-6, 6-3
Order of Finish
Doubles (3,1,2) Singles (2,5,3,1,5,6)
Final Match Score
No. 9, (29-4) NORTH CAROLINA defeats No. 12, (22-8) GEORGIA 4-3