Feb. 16, 2014
HOUSTON --- The Georgia men's tennis team nearly overcame a 3-0 deficit to post a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State on Sunday on the team's final day of action at the ITA Indoor Championships in Houston, but fell short on the final court in a 4-3 loss to conclude a weekend of bad luck for the Bulldogs.
Georgia (3-5) saw its unusual stint at the tournament continue on Sunday, as No. 1 singles player Austin Smith came down with a stomach illness with the squad's No. 3 player Ben Wagland already suspended and No. 4 Garrett Brasseaux out with injury. The losses left the Bulldogs with just four eligible players, meaning the team had to forfeit No. 3 doubles and Nos. 5 and 6 singles before the match even began. After dropping the doubles point in a tiebreaker, Georgia was faced with the tall task of needing to win each of the four contested singles points, but only managed three in the loss.
"Obviously at a tournament like this, you're going to go up against very tough competition," said head coach Manuel Diaz. "Unfortunately, we had some tough luck with Austin's illness today. Going down to five players is already a travesty, but we were basically competing with only four, and really were so close to winning today against a very good Mississippi State team. I'm really proud of the guys and what they gave us. We had match point for the doubles, but MSU beat us there with two great returns. Eric [Diaz] is gaining great experience these last couple days, and had a tough third set against a very good player. I couldn't be prouder."
"Hernus [Pieters] came away with a great win today, and Nathan [Pasha] and Nick [Wood] got it done," Diaz said. "Nick struggled yesterday and didn't play his best, but had a great victory today and showed me the toughness that makes him special. I think we've grown a lot at this tournament and will be better because of it. Our goals are not compromised. I still think we are one of the best teams in the country, and we're looking forward to the rest of the season."
Both of the doubles matches came down to tiebreakers, with Georgia's No. 2 team of Pasha and Wood claiming the quick 7-1 victory there to take it 6-5(1), leaving just No. 1 up for grabs. In the end, No. 55-ranked Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp edged out Pieters and Diaz, 6-5(6), sealing the point for Mississippi State who already held the No. 3 match by default.
But the Bulldogs did not go quietly, winning their first sets on three of the four courts and eventually capturing victories in the first three completed matches to pull the team score even at 3-3. First off was 20th-ranked Pasha at No. 1, defeated No. 52 Florian Lakat, 6-2, 6-4, to cut it to 3-1. Wood's win at No. 2 over 49th-ranked Stropp, 6-5(2), 6-2 made it a 3-2 MSU lead, and Pieters' 6-1, 6-5(5) decision over No. 115 Angus brought Georgia all the way back to tie it.
On the final remaining court, Diaz had dropped his first set, 6-4, to Zach White, but rebounded to win the second by the same score. Diaz then got broken early in the decisive third set and could never get it back, falling 6-3 in the third as White clinched the 4-3 win for Mississippi State.
Georgia heads back to Athens aiming to get healthy, and will return to action next Thurs., Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m. vs. Georgia Tech in the outdoor opener at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
#9 Mississippi State 4, #4 Georgia 3
1. #20 Nathan Pasha (UGA) def. #52 Florian Lakat (MSU) 6-2, 6-4
2. #109 Nick Wood (UGA) def. #49 Malte Stropp (MSU) 6-5 (7-2), 6-2
3. Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. #115 Jordan Angus (MSU) 6-1, 6-5 (7-5)
4. Zach White (MSU) def. Eric Diaz (UGA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
5. Rishab Agarwal (MSU) def. No player (UGA), by walkover
6. Tassilo Schmid (MSU) def. No player (UGA), by walkover
1. #55 Jordan Angus/Malte Stropp (MSU) def. Hernus Pieters/Eric Diaz (UGA) 6-5 (8-6)
2. Nathan Pasha/Nick Wood (UGA) def. Florian Lakat/Tassilo Schmid (MSU) 6-5 (7-1)
3. Zach White/Rishab Agarwal (MSU) def. No player/No player (UGA), by walkover
Mississippi State 9-2; National ranking #9
Georgia 3-5; National ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,6,1,2,3,4)
ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship