Bulldogs Open SEC Play With Gamecocks, Gators
Ignacio Taboada

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March 1, 2012

ATHENS, Ga. --- The sixth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team (9-1) will open its Southeastern Conference slate this weekend, traveling to take on a pair of top-25 teams in No. 22 South Carolina and No. 10 Florida. The Bulldogs are set to meet the Gamecocks on Fri., March 2 at 2:30 p.m. in Columbia before heading to take on the Gators for the second time this season on Sun., March 4 at 1 p.m. in Gainesville.

Live scoring will be offered by the host institutions and available on Georgiadogs.com.

“We’re starting the most important part of our season,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “The level of anticipation and the competition level begins to climb for us right here. This weekend, and really our first two weekends, we’re probably looking at two of the toughest weekends we could have. We go on the road to South Carolina and Florida and then come home to face Mississippi State and Ole Miss.”

“South Carolina is a really young program, but one that is greatly improving in quality. They have a lot of talent, and hopefully we can go in there and be ready to play. We’ve obviously got a good number of guys who are older and more veteran, who will be prepared to play on the road in the SEC. Hopefully we’ll combine that with a good match at Florida – we know they’re a tough team and gave us a great match at ITA Indoors. They’re probably looking forward to it, and we’ll have to go in there and be at our best. This weekend will be a good measuring stick for us.

LOOKING AT THE GAMECOCKS: Georgia is 32-6 all-time vs. its SEC Eastern Division rival, including wins in each of the last six meetings. Last season Georgia defeated the Gamecocks 7-0 in Athens in a match that clinched the Bulldogs a share of the regular-season SEC title - their 26th regular-season and 33rd overall league crown.

The 2012 edition of South Carolina men’s tennis team stands at 10-1 overall and at No. 22 in the latest ITA ranking - the program’s best showing in the poll since 2005. Four of those wins have come other ranked opponents, including a convincing 5-2 decision over then-No. 22 Georgia Tech on Feb. 4 on the road in Atlanta, good for the highest-ranked win of the Josh Goffi head-coaching era.

The Gamecocks enter the weekend led by six players with double-digit wins, with Andrew Adams leading the way at 18-5 overall and 7-0 at No. 2 singles. The squad’s lone ranked player is Nick Jones at No. 92 this week.

Goffi is in his second season at the helm of the program.

LOOKING AT THE GATORS: Georgia is familiar with the 2012 Florida squad, having faced this Gator team just 12 days ago in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va. There, the Gators snagged the doubles point before the Bulldogs responded with the four necessary singles victories to march into the semifinals with a 4-2 win.

Georgia is 52-18 all-time vs. Florida, with Georgia Tech the only team that UGA has more victories against than the Gators. Last season the Bulldogs defeated UF by a tight 4-3 score in Athens.

Florida is 7-1 overall and No. 10 in the rankings, already marking Georgia’s third match against a top-10 team in 2012. The Gators are paced by two players in the rankings - No. 51 Bob van Overbeek and No. 70 Spencer Newman, who is 23-6 overall. In doubles, all three of the Florida pairs are ranked, including No. 8 Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam, No. 18 Tripper Carleton and Newman, and No. 43 Andrew Butz and van Overbeek.

The Gators also play Tennessee Friday night in Gainesville.

Andy Jackson is in his 11th season as the Gators’ head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: The Georgia men’s tennis team opened the outdoor season with a 6-1 win over Furman Monday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

The Bulldogs swept the doubles point and continued to roll in singles, with freshman Nathan Pasha capturing the clinching victory for the third straight time after being named the SEC Freshman of the Week last Wednesday.

Georgia started the day by winning all three doubles matches to take a 1-0 lead. Pasha and Ignacio Taboada won the first completed match at No. 2, 8-4, over Jacob Behal and Andrew Mellow, while Wil Spencer and KU Singh - playing together for the first time - clinched the point at No. 3 with an 8-4 win over Watson George and Nate Collins. At No. 1, Sadio Doumbia and Hernus Pieters completed the doubles sweep with an 8-2 win over the 49th-ranked tandem of Alex Christ and Joel Cook.

In singles, No. 43 Taboada increased Georgia’s lead to 2-0 with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Cook at No. 4, then No. 72 Pieters beat Robbie Aru, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 5 to make it 3-0. Pasha then furnished his third straight clincher at No. 6 where he defeated Luke Synn, 6-3, 6-2. The freshman has now won eight matches in a row and is 8-0 dual matches, 19-6 overall. No. 21 Doumbia secured Georgia’s fifth point at No. 2 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Christ for his team-leading 24th singles victory of the year, before No. 55 Singh quickly made it 6-0 as he downed Behal, 7-5, 6-2.

SPENCER’S RECORD WATCH: Georgia senior captain Wil Spencer sits just six singles wins shy of reaching 100 for his career - having played his first two seasons at Texas A&M and his final two at UGA. Spencer’s combined career record at the two institutions is 94-40.

Six more wins would make Spencer just the 15th player in UGA history to win 100 singles matches, a feat that was most recently accomplished by Drake Bernstein and Javier Garrapiz last season.

IN THE RANKINGS: Georgia placed five players in the top-50 of the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) singles poll released late Tuesday afternoon, including senior Wil Spencer who remained at No. 3 in the country.

Georgia came in at No. 6 as a team in the first computerized edition of the rankings in 2012, behind Southern Cal, Ohio State, UCLA, Virginia, and Duke. Rounding out the top-10 were Stanford, Texas, Kentucky, and Florida. The Bulldogs had been No. 4 in all the previous polls this season.

The Bulldogs have now been ranked inside the top-10 in 13 consecutive ITA polls dating back to March 29, 2011.

Georgia’s singles delegation in the top-50 includes Spencer (3), Sadio Doumbia up 10 spots to No. 11, KU Singh up 20 spots to No. 35, Ignacio Taboada at No. 43, and Hernus Pieters up 25 spots to No. 47.

In doubles, three Bulldog teams are ranked this week including No. 7 Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux, No. 12 Doumbia and Taboada, and No. 54 Doumbia and Pieters.

ON DECK: The Bulldogs return home next weekend to welcome Mississippi State and Ole Miss to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on Friday and Sunday, March 9-11, respectively.



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