In a thrilling NCAA Championships’ Round of 16 match on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, the UGA women’s tennis team fell to Pepperdine, 4-3. Tied at 3-all, play boiled down to court one’s three-setter between Luisa Stefani and Ellen Perez with Stefani ultimately prevailing to give the Waves the win.
The Bulldogs trailed 3-1, before Mariana Gould and Caroline Brinson picked up wins to tie it and set the stage for the match decider on court one. Through the first four games of the third set, Perez and Stefani broke each other’s service twice. In the fifth game, Stefani broke Perez’s serve again, then held for the 4-2 lead. Stefani continued to pull away to cap the 6-7 (8), 6-2, 6-2 win.
Pepperdine advances to the quarterfinals to face Vanderbilt Sunday at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs’ season ends with a final record of 19-6, however individual matches remain in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships.
“Obviously a heart breaker out there for us, certainly that close doubles point,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “Seems like this six-game, no-ad sets are always close and you just don’t know what is going to happen. We had our chances but Pepperdine played well, but then we got four first sets out there in singles and thought things were looking pretty good. Caroline Brinson, and Kennedy Shaffer and Mariana Gould had a great day and won their matches in straight sets to get us three points, we were just trying to find a way to get one more point. We battled in that third set but it just wasn’t quite enough. I feel like Luisa Stefani played great tennis all day and their doubles were amazing, and their singles were too. You certainly have to take your hat off to Pepperdine and their play, but disappointing for us obviously, being here at home and having such a close heartbreaker. You like to think that you have a little bit of an advantage when you are at home and you’re three matches all and you’re down there, but man they played great.”
The 12th-ranked Waves (24-4) captured the doubles point and won the first completed singles match to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Kennedy Shaffer, ranked 52nd in ITA singles, put the Bulldogs on the board first with a victory on court three over No. 37 Mayar Sherif Ahmed 6-2, 6-3.
Pepperdine extended its lead to 3-1 after Jean Runglerdkriangkrai defeated Marta Gonzalez 6-4, 6-3 at No. 5.
Shortly after, Gould dispatched Dzina Milovanovic 6-4, 6-3 at No. 6 and Brinson, ranked 66th in ITA singles, beat No. 97 Laura Gulbe at No. 4.
The first set tiebreaker on court one hinted at the fact that the matchup between Perez and Stefani could be the decider. Perez, ranked 12th in ITA singles, rallied from down 3-5 to force the tiebreaker, which she eventually won 10-8. Stefani, ranked 14th in ITA singles, responded by taking the second set at the same time that Brinson tied the match with her victory. The late comeback proved to be not enough as Stefani shut the door in the final set.
In doubles, No. 8 Christine Maddox and Sherif Ahmed and third-ranked Brinson and Perez were notched at 4-all when the Waves broke the Bulldogs serve, then held to take the first doubles court win. Gonzalez and Gould evened the doubles series with a win over Ashley Lahey and Milovanovic on court three. Leading 4-3, Georgia broke Pepperdine’s serve and held to win 6-3.
On the deciding No. 2 doubles court, 38th-ranked Elena Christofi and Shaffer lost their opening service and didn’t recover as they fell 6-4 to No. 53 Stefani and Runglerdkriangkrai.
CLICK HERE for the final stats and results of Georgia versus Pepperdine.
Christofi, Perez and Shaffer have bids for the NCAA Singles Championships, while the duos of Brinson/Perez and Christofi/Shaffer also will compete in the NCAA Doubles Championships. Pinned as an alternate, Brinson could also play in the singles bracket. The Individual brackets will be released on Tuesday.
CLICK HERE for the complete bracket for the 2017 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships.