In head coach Jeff Wallace’s 32nd year at the helm, the 2016-17 Georgia women’s tennis team advanced to the Round of 16 in the program’s 31st consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships.
After a two-year absence, the NCAA Championships returned to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex with of over 13,456 attendees. In a stiff Sweet Sixteen matchup, 12th-ranked Pepperdine edged No. 5 Georgia 4-3 in a third set on the deciding court. Individually, Georgia’s dynamite duo of Elena Christofi and Kennedy Shaffer advanced to the Elite Eight of the Doubles Championships, while Ellen Perez reached the Round of 16 in the Singles Championships.
Four Bulldogs earned All-America honors, with the duos of Christofi/Shaffer and Perez and Caroline Brinson receiving doubles accolades, while Perez also gained singles recognition. Perez joined the elite company of only one other player (Hayley Carter, UNC) who has been an All-American in doubles and singles each of the past two years.
The Bulldogs’ 19-6 season included a SEC regular season runner-up finish, a semifinals appearance at the ITA National Team Indoors, and a 10-match regular-season win streak. Amidst Georgia’s regular-season tear, the Bulldogs defeated top-ranked Florida, snapping a then-NCAA all-sport record 163 home match win streak.
Georgia’s No. 6 final ITA ranking marked the 28th time the Bulldogs capped the year ranked in the top 10 under Wallace. In the final individual rankings, Perez led the group at No. 16 in singles, followed by Christofi (No. 24), Shaffer (No. 49), and Brinson (No. 70). In doubles, Brinson/Perez finished at No. 10, while the Christofi/Shaffer duo was No. 26.
The Bulldogs will have to replace three student-athletes heading into next season. Georgia’s sole senior Brinson capped her distinguished four-year career in the red and black with 92 singles wins and 83 doubles wins. After three years at Georgia, Perez, a five-time All-American, opts to pursue a professional career, while walk-on Stephanie Grodecki also plans not to return.
The returning six Bulldogs will consist of three experienced seniors and a trio of sophomores, headlined by senior Shaffer and sophomore Christofi. In conference play, Christofi and Shaffer each compiled the most wins on courts No. 2 and 3 singles, respectively. Joining Shaffer as a senior will be Mariana Gould and Laura Patterson, who missed most of the spring season due to injury. Gould went 13-5 at No. 6 singles and 14-6 at No. 3 doubles. Marta Gonzalez and walk-on Abby Walter will round out the sophomore class. Gonzalez notched 19 wins including eight SEC victories on court No. 5 singles while playing with Gould in doubles.
Georgia will welcome the top-rated signing class in the nation according to tennisrecruiting.net. Annette Goulak (Oak Park, Calif.), Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, Okla.) along with Katarina Jokic (Zrenjanin, Serbia) will begin their collegiate careers in Athens in the fall.