March 11, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- Sophomore Hernus Pieters provided the clinching victory at No. 5 singles to lead a charge by the “pit” courts as the sixth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team defeated No. 16 Ole Miss by a tight 4-3 score Sunday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Georgia used the win to improve to 13-1 on the season and 4-0 in SEC play, dropping the visiting Rebels to 6-4 (3-1). After the Bulldogs won doubles, singles was hotly contested all day with Pieters coming through to break the 3-3 tie and all three UGA’s singles victories coming via the “pit” – Nos. 4, 5, and 6.
“Ole Miss played so well today,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “They seemed to be winning the close ones – tiebreakers and getting late breaks back. They played tremendous. I thought at one point we had a lot of momentum, but Ole Miss just took it back. Had they won the last match, I wouldn’t have complained about our effort, our toughness, or our grit. This was a great college tennis match and I am proud of the guys and how they made it through when the chips were down.”
“This should do wonders for Hernus’ confidence,” Diaz said. “He had to play well when the chips were down and the level of tennis at the end there was superb. I think he’s had some rough matches this year where he hasn’t been playing to his level, but he’s such a hard worker and we knew it would be a matter of time before he hit his stride, and he did that today.”
Georgia picked up the early 1-0 lead in doubles with wins on courts 1 and 3. First off was the team of Ignacio Taboada and Pieters, who beat the 19th-ranked pairing of twin brothers Chris and Marcel Thiemann, 8-4 at the No. 1 spot. Then came an 8-6 win for Georgia’s No. 3 team of Wil Spencer and KU Singh as they downed Johan Backstrom and William Kallberg to secure the point. Ole Miss grabbed the victory on the remaining court as the No. 2 team of Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz beat Sadio Doumbia and Nathan Pasha, 8-6.
The Bulldogs picked up a little early insurance as Pasha continued his hot streak with a fast 6-3, 6-0 win over Adrian Forberg Skogeng at No. 6, moving the freshman to 11-1 in dual matches in 2012 and giving Georgia the 2-0 lead over the Rebels.
But Ole Miss cut the lead in half as No. 48 Lutjen defeated No. 11 Doumbia, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 3 singles, making it 2-1, and 55th-ranked Scholtz tied things at 2-2 with his 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 win over Spencer at No. 1.
Georgia went back up by a 3-2 score as 43rd-ranked Taboada pulled out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 49 Kallberg at No. 4. But just like that it was tied again, as Singh was unable to bounce back from his first-set loss as he fell 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(2) to No. 46 Marcel Thiemann at No. 2 as the Rebels evened the score at 3-3 with just court No. 5 left to decide it.
No. 47 Pieters and No. 97 Backstrom had played a first-set tiebreaker with Pieters taking it 7-6(0) in commanding fashion, but Backstrom responded to take the second set 6-2. They were locked at 4-4 in the third when Pieters finally broke through with a break, giving him the chance to serve for the match at 5-4. But Backstrom started out with three points in a row to put Pieters in a 0-40 hole, before the Pretoria, South Africa, native responded to hold serve and take it 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 and give the Bulldogs the dramatic 4-3 win.
“I was pumped up when I got that break,” Pieters said. “I was confident that if I got to serve for it, I could hold, but then I went down 0-40. When that happened I thought about how it was still my serve, and I just needed one or two points to make it close again. The guys helped me a lot and supported me through it.”
Georgia is off next weekend before returning to action a week from Wednesday, welcoming non-conference foe Ohio State, currently ranked No. 2, to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex for a 2:30 p.m. meeting on March 21.
#6 Georgia 4, #16 Ole Miss 3
1. #55 Nik Scholtz (OM) def. #3 Wil Spencer (UGA) 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
2. #46 Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. #35 KU Singh (UGA) 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-2)
3. #48 Jonas Lutjen (OM) def. #11 Sadio Doumbia (UGA) 6-3, 6-1
4. #43 Ignacio Taboada (UGA) def. #49 William Kallberg (OM) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
5. #47 Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. #97 Johan Backstrom (OM) 7-6 (7-0), 2-6, 6-4
6. Nathan Pasha (UGA) def. Adrian Skogeng (OM) 6-3, 6-0
1. Ignacio Taboada/Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. #19 Chris Thiemann/Marcel Thiemann (OM) 8-4
2. Jonas Lutjen/Nik Scholtz (OM) def. Sadio Doumbia/Nathan Pasha (UGA) 8-6
3. Wil Spencer/KU Singh (UGA) def. Johan Backstrom/William Kallberg (OM) 8-6
Ole Miss (6-4, 3-1); National ranking #16
Georgia (13-1, 4-0); National ranking #6
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,3,1,4,2,5)
Official: Walt Williams T-4:43 A-489