On Thursday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, Ellen Perez along with UGA women’s tennis duo of Elena Christofi and Kennedy Shaffer collected wins to advance to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, respectively.
In the early afternoon, Perez, ranked 12th in ITA singles, dispatched No. 30 Stacey Fung of Washington 7-5, 6-3. As the sun was fading, the 38th-ranked Christofi and Shaffer tandem toppled North Carolina’s Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney 6-3, 6-4. The defeat of the fourth-ranked Tar Heel team is the highest-ranked win this season from Christofi/Shaffer.
“We played great doubles,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “Today they were a great team as they were setting each other up the whole time. It is what we have been working on, so it is great to see them execute. In singles, Ellen’s first set was tough, but she found ways to get it done. She played a good one today and she has another one tomorrow as she moves on to the next round. We will see what tomorrow brings us.”
Trailing 0-40 and jeopardizing going to 5-5, Shaffer and Christofi rallied off five consecutive points to seal the victory. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 1-3 lead in the second set, before Georgia broke UNC’s serve twice in a row to get the upper hand. The Bulldogs twosome moves on to battle Northwestern’s Alex Chatt and Maddie Lipp Friday at 1 p.m.
Perez, of Shellharbour, Australia, got her serve broken in her first two services, but none after as she dominated from that point forward. Fung held a 3-1 lead, before Perez broke back and notched it at 3-all. Both players held serve for the next four games until Perez bested Fung’s serve again to take the first set 7-5 and avoid a tiebreaker.
In the second set, Perez needed just one break which came in the sixth game to go up 4-2. Perez’s strong serve continued down the stretch as she put Fung out of position. In the Round of 16, Perez is scheduled to play Anna Danilina of Florida at 10 a.m., Friday. This marks the furthest the Aussie has gone in the NCAA Singles Championships as she fell in the second round last year.
“It is really nice to pick up another win,” Perez said. “It’s awesome just being in the tournament and being in the next round is really great for me. Each match, I’m trying to take it as it is. I try to improve on my shots, find my rhythm, find some consistency and I think today was a great stepping-stone. Obviously, we have great matches coming up, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Also competing in doubles was Georgia’s third-ranked pair of Caroline Brinson and Perez. Ohio State’s Francesca Di Lorenzo and Miho Kowase, ranked 18th in ITA doubles, upset Brinson/Perez in the 10-point match tiebreaker, 5-7, 6-1, 10-6.
Brinson, a senior from New Orleans, La., finished her four-year career with 92 singles victories and 83 doubles wins. She garnered one All-SEC honor, three ITA All-Tournament Team accolades, and two SEC Community Service Awards in her time in the red and black.
“I want to say that Caroline Brinson has had an amazing career here and she played her last match today,” Wallace added. “She will be greatly missed, but what an amazing student-athlete representing Georgia on- and off-the-court for four straight years. I’m really excited about the career she has had.”