The second-ranked Georgia women’s tennis team paired its undefeated record with winning the 2019 Southeastern Conference regular season championship Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of 736 fans at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The Bulldogs (20-0, 12-0 SEC) shutout No. 24 Kentucky (17-6, 7-5 SEC) for its seventh-straight 4-0 conference victory and ninth total, which ties a program record set in 2014. The SEC regular season title marks the 10th in Georgia history and first since 2013.
“I mean just a great day for the Bulldogs,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “It was really special when we won that national indoor title out in Seattle, but we were out there all by ourselves, and to win this championship here in front of our home crowd was really great. These fans here in Athens have been awesome for us all year, and we just wouldn’t be able to do something like we did today without them. Every time we needed a boost, they were there for us, and I thought our players really played well as a team and as a group and just had a great day, so it’s super exciting to win this. We’ve got a big one on Sunday. We’ve got to regroup and get ready for that.”
For the seventh match in a row, Georgia started off with a 1-0 lead after taking the doubles point. Georgia improved to 15-for-19 in the doubles point in the season, while Kentucky dropped to 15-for-23.
On court three, junior Marta Gonzalez and freshman Meg Kowalski made quick work of UK’s junior-freshman duo of Diana Tkachenko and Alexis Merrill, winning 6-0 for their fourth-straight win.
Competition was much more fierce on the other two courts as the Wildcats led court one at 5-4, and were threatening to break Georgia’s serve on court two, up 40-15 with a 5-3 deficit. However, sophomore Vivian Wolff and junior Elena Christofi tightened up in a big way against redshirt-sophomore Lesedi Jacobs and junior Anastasia Tkachenko. After making it 30-40, Wolff powered back-to-back serves that Kentucky couldn’t handle to clinch the doubles point. Christofi and Wolff, ranked No. 74 in ITA doubles, increased their undefeated mark to 12-0 with their eighth clinch.
The change over into singles resembled the dominance the Bulldogs have displayed all season. Georgia obtained the first set on five courts, while battling to a lengthy 14-12 tiebreaker defeat on the last one. By the time that last marathon first-set tiebreaker completed, the other Georgia players were storming freshman Lourdes Carle who just clinched the team victory.
“It was super exciting” Wallace said about the team rushing Carle. “I mean that’s what you want to see, you want to have all your players be happy when you win a championship like this and I’m so happy for Lourdes too. She was playing some really outstanding tennis, and that girl [opponent] actually started picking it up there in the second set and then Lourdes closes it out. You want your teammates to be thrilled like that and excited and they certainly were.”
Fittingly, the singles wins that secured Georgia’s regular season title and kept the Bulldogs’ record clean came from individuals that all flaunt undefeated records within the conference. First, Wolff grabbed her 11th win, Christofi notched her sixth, and Carle picked up her 8th victory in SEC play.
Extending her win streak to 14 in a row, Wolff, ranked No. 53 in ITA singles, raced past Wildcat redshirt-junior Akvile Parazinskaite, 6-2, 6-1, on court four. The Frankfurt, Germany native increased her team-best record to 26-3, which includes an 18-1 dual mark.
Mere moments later Wolff’s doubles partner, Christofi, put Georgia up 3-0 in a battle of juniors on court five. The Athens, Greece product defeated Diana Tkachenko, 6-2, 6-0, stretching her win streak to seven in a row. Christofi improved her dual total to 11-2 within an overall 15-5 record.
Lastly, Carle, of Daireaux, Argentina, outlasted one of the other top freshmen within the conference in Kentucky’s Tiphanie Fiquet who entered the match 14-4 in duals. The clinch was Carle’s fourth of the season as she bested Fiquet, 6-2, 6-2, on court three. The No. 87-ranked Carle upped her win streak to nine and her overall record to 18-5.
“It’s so hard to describe the feeling right now,” Carle said. “This team for me is so special, so to get the victory for winning this match was awesome for me. I think we’re doing great, because we are close to each other. We fight for each other, and we compete for each other, so that is the key and the best thing that we do as a team.”
At the end of play, No. 1-ranked Katarina Jokic had a 6-3, 4-2 lead on No. 15 Justina Mikulskyte on court one, while Gonzalez dropped the long-drawn-out first-set tiebreaker on court two, and Kowalski was fixing to start a third set on court six.
Georgia finishes its regular season schedule at home Sunday against No. 7 Vanderbilt at 1 p.m.