CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Surging from down 2-3, Elena Christofi and Katarina Jokic gritted-out two third-set victories Thursday afternoon to send No. 7 Georgia past No. 10 South Carolina, 4-3, and into the quarterfinals of the 2018 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships.
After rain forced play to move 80 miles east from Wake Forest’s campus in Winston-Salem to the indoor courts of the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina, the Bulldogs (18-6) advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015. Georgia moves on to face No. 15 Stanford Saturday at noon in Winston-Salem, barring further weather issues.
After the Gamecocks (21-7) obtained the 3-2 lead, all focus turned to the remaining third-sets on courts one and five, inhabited by Jokic and Christofi, respectively for Georgia. Christofi notched the tie, defeating Megan Davies, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, when South Carolina’s shot landed long. The third-set started with five consecutive service breaks; before Christofi got the key hold to go up 4-2, and then ended the match by breaking Davies’ serve three games later.
Fans, players, and coaches hurried to court one to witness the decisive last point of the 3-all affair. The Gamecocks’ Ingrid Gamarra Martins was on serve, down 4-5, when match point landed in the net, prompting the Bulldogs’ squad to rush their freshman that just sent them to the next round. Earlier in the set, Jokic got the 4-2 advantage by breaking Martins’ serve, and then held for the 5-2 lead. Martins broke Jokic to make it 5-4, but Jokic’s final break sealed the 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 victory. Jokic, ranked No. 12 in ITA singles, improved her team-best record to 31-7 including her 13th-ranked win as Martins checked in at No. 59.
“Just a great match,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “The sweet sixteen of the NCAA Tournament you expect a match like this. South Carolina took us down earlier in the season so it was nice for us to do it the way we did it and especially without getting that doubles point. That wasn’t on us, they completely outplayed us, but getting four first sets in singles was crucial. Mariana (Gould), I can’t say enough about. She got a point today and clinched the first two rounds, just a great senior season. It was so great to see Christofi win a tough three-set match. She has been up in a lot of matches and hasn’t been able to finish, so for her to finish was huge. Kat was just in a battle. We got down 40-15 in the first game of the third set and came back to win. That was really huge and we were able to close it out. I’m very proud of the whole group.”
The Bulldogs, who dropped just four doubles points throughout the season, fell behind early and did not recover, taking the 0-1 deficit into singles. Flipping the script in singles, Georgia’s four first sets grabbed momentum.
For the sixth time this season, senior Mariana Gould and freshman Morgan Coppoc, ranked No. 103, were off the courts first in singles with victories. First, Coppoc gained Georgia’s first point, knotting the score at 1-all. She finished off Rachel Rohrabacher at the net with a spike for the 6-1, 6-4 victory on court six. Gould followed on court four with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Paige Cline to put Georgia up 2-1. The wins extended each of their completed-match win streaks to 11 matches, while improving their overall records to 24-7 for Coppoc and 25-4 for Gould.
Next, Kennedy Shaffer and Marta Gonzalez fell on courts two and three, respectively, setting up the final sequence. The clinch by Jokic marked her fifth of the season.
“This was something unreal,” Jokic said. “I was trying to not look at the scoreboard, focusing just on my match. But when everyone came to support my match, I knew this was it. This is what I trained for, this is what we have prepared the last two weeks for, and I’m just so happy, and couldn’t be happier right now. This is not what we came here for though. This is just our first step. We are going to rest as much as we can and be ready for the next one.”