In a battle of the remaining unbeaten Southeastern Conference squads, the No. 2-ranked Georgia women’s tennis team defeated No. 7 South Carolina, 4-2, Sunday afternoon at the Carolina Tennis Center.
For the first time since the 2019 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the Bulldogs dropped the doubles point, but a la the Team Indoors, Georgia won four singles matches to win the match. Freshman Lourdes Carle and sophomore Vivian Wolff did their part, getting straight-set wins, while junior Elena Christofi and freshman Meg Kowalski used third-set victories to keep Georgia undefeated. The Bulldogs improved to 13-0 overall – their best start since 2002’s 22-0 beginning. In conference, Georgia is 5-0 for the first time since 2016.
Meanwhile, the Georgia win handed the Gamecocks their first SEC loss, putting them at 5-1 in the conference and 10-3 overall. Coming into the weekend, No. 4 Vanderbilt was also undefeated in conference, but lost on Friday to Texas A&M.
“It was a huge doubles point as both teams were playing high level tennis and you just aren’t going to win each doubles point even if we’ve won five in a row,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “We lose this one, however your player were ready for the challenge here on the road. South Carolina was loud, playing aggressive, and really bringing it, but our players responded in Bulldog fashion.”
After Georgia dropped the doubles point, the two teams split the first sets, meaning the Bulldogs would need at least one third-set victory. Georgia got not one, but two matches of its first set loses to go into third sets to help the odds, however South Carolina also pushed a third set.
Carle, ranked No. 92 in ITA singles, was the first to finish, handing Gamecock junior Mia Horvit, ranked No. 99, her first conference loss, 6-3, 6-4, on court three. That win knotted the team score at 1-all, and individually improved Carle to 14-5 overall, including 9-3 in duals and 4-0 in conference play. Horvit fell to 15-5 and 3-1 in SEC.
On court two, SC’s senior Paige Cline, ranked No. 49, bested No. 16 Marta Gonzalez, a junior, 6-0, 7-5, to reestablish the Gamecock lead at 2-1, but it didn’t last long.
In one swoop, which turned the tide, the Bulldogs snatched the 3-2 lead. First Wolff, ranked No. 35, outlasted fellow sophomore Megan Davies in the second set tiebreaker to win, 6-3, 7-6(3) on court four. It marked Wolff’s seventh-straight win and improved her overall record to 19-3, including 10-1 in duals.
Simultaneously, Christofi, who lost the first set, rolled in the second and third to best SC’s junior Silvia Chinellato, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. The win was Christofi’s third straight, while she halted Chinellato’s win streak at eight.
With the lead in hand, Georgia needed just one point from either court one or court six, which at the time were leading 5-1, and tied 2-2, respectively, in the third sets. The Gamecocks’ No. 9-ranked player Ingrid Gamarra Martins stormed back to tie it a 5-all with Georgia’s top-ranked Katarina Jokic at court one, but meanwhile Kowalski turned it on at court six. After it was knotted at 2-all, the Chicago native won four-straight games to outlast sophomore Kennedy Wicker, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
The Kowalski clinch registered her fourth on the season with three coming in conference play. The unbeaten freshman improved her record to 14-0 with 10 wins at court six duals.
“Meg [Kowalski] did a great job,” Wallace added. “She let it go a little in the second set, but she rebounded nicely and clinched it in the third set for us. It was a heck of a match and a great weekend, a lot of tough tennis on the road, which it is tough when it is a top-10 team, but even tougher when it is a SEC opponent. Our players did an outstanding job.”
In doubles, South Carolina earned the point for the seventh-straight match, making it 12 of its 13 attempts overall this season. Georgia had taken the point five times in a row coming into the match. Despite dropping the point, the Bulldogs still came out victorious – a feat they have done four times this season, including three times during their ITA Indoor Championship run.
The lone Bulldog doubles win came form Christofi and Wolff on court two. The Georgia twosome defeated Cline and Chinellato to up their mark to 6-0 overall.
“They play for each other and there is a lot of heart and a lot of fight,” Wallace said. “When we have a group that wants to do it for the right reasons – for Georgia and each other – than they will be a rough out. They showed that today – a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of things we needed at the right time and key parts of the match. South Carolina played very well, but we just found a way.”
Georgia returns home to play host to both SEC Mississippi schools next weekend at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The match against the Rebels is Friday, March 22 at 5 p.m., while the Bulldog-Bulldog match is Sunday, March 24 at 1 p.m.