April 12, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The fourth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team (19-2, 9-1) will close out the 2012 regular season with a road match this Sat., April 14 vs. Tennessee (13-11, 5-5). The Bulldogs and Volunteers will serve at 1 p.m. at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville.
Georgia can still claim a share of the SEC regular-season championship this weekend as it currently stands in second place in the Eastern Division and overall with just one conference loss. Unbeaten Kentucky, by virtue of its 4-3 win over Georgia earlier this season, has already clinched at least a share and controls its own destiny as it meets Vanderbilt this weekend in Lexington, Ky. The Bulldogs can finish no worse than second place with next week’s SEC Championships on the horizon. A title would be UGA’s league-leading 34th overall and 27th for the regular season.
Tennessee will be Georgia’s eighth top-15 opponent of the season, with a current record of 5-2 in those meetings.
Live scoring for Saturday’s match will be available on Georgiadogs.com. The Vols also offer a live blog and live video coverage via UTSports.com.
“We’re both playing for a lot – certainly for national rankings, NCAA seeding, and most importantly right now the SEC regular-season standings,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “I think both teams will take a great deal of pride in this match having tremendous years coming in. We want to go out on a positive note going to the SEC Tournament, so it will be very competitive and some quality tennis will be played. The guys put in a good week of work and are ready to go, so hopefully we’ll play up to our standards.”
LOOKING AT THE VOLUNTEERS: Tennessee is 13-11 on the season and 5-5 in the Southeastern Conference after losing five of its six starters from last season’s NCAA quarterfinal run. The Vols are No. 15 this week but are coming off a 6-1 loss to Alabama last time out.
In the singles poll, Tennessee is led by a pair of youngsters in freshman Mikelis Libietis at No. 42 and redshirt freshman Hunter Reese at No. 97. In doubles, that tandem is currently the No. 10 ranked team in the nation and are 21-8 on the season including 15-6 in dual matches.
Georgia is 46-23 all-time vs. the Vols including three meetings last season. In those matches, the Bulldogs fell twice in the regular season, a 4-2 setback in the ITA National Indoors and a 4-3 loss in the dual match in Athens, but Georgia responded to win when it mattered - defeating Tennessee in dramatic fashion, 4-3, to advance to the NCAA semifinals in Palo Alto, Calif. In that match, Georgia lost the doubles point but responded to ultimately knot the team score at 3-3 before Wil Spencer pulled out a third-set thriller over four-time All-American and 11th-ranked J.P. Smith, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.
LAST TIME OUT: The Georgia men’s tennis team picked up another weekend sweep on the road in the SEC, defeating Alabama by a 5-2 score last Friday night before traveling to No. 16 Auburn on Sunday and registering a 6-1 victory there.
PASHA NAMED SEC ROOKIE OF THE WEEK (AGAIN): Georgia men’s tennis freshman Nathan Pasha – currently riding a team-high eight-match winning streak – secured his third SEC Freshman of the Week honor of the season, the league office announced Wednesday morning.
Pasha – who stands at 28-7 in singles including a sizzling 17-1 clip in dual match play – went 4-0 last weekend to help the No. 4 Bulldogs to wins over Alabama and No. 16 Auburn. The Atlanta native teamed with senior Sadio Doumbia for a pair of doubles victories, including the clinching win vs. Auburn. Against Alabama on Friday night, he was the first completed singles match for the fifth time this season to give the Bulldogs the early 2-0 lead on their way to the road victory.
Pasha is 8-1 in SEC play this season and 13-1 at No. 6 singles, including two wins over ranked opponents.
He also won the award on Feb. 22 and March 28 this year.
IN THE RANKINGS: Georgia remained No. 4 in the ITA team rankings for the third straight week -- marking the fifth week in a row the Bulldogs are ranked inside the top-five.
Individually, Georgia has five players in the singles poll as well as five ranked doubles teams. Senior Wil Spencer continues to lead the way at No. 9 in the singles rankings, followed by Sadio Doumbia at No. 24, KU Singh at a career-high No. 28, Ignacio Taboada at No. 39, and Hernus Pieters at No. 52.
In doubles, Georgia’s team of Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux sits at No. 22 this week, followed by Doumbia and Taboada at No. 24, Hernus Pieters and Taboada at No. 43, Doumbia and Nathan Pasha at No. 52, and Doumbia and Pieters at No. 79.
RECORD WATCH: Georgia senior captain Wil Spencer sits just one 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 99-46.
Fellow senior Ignacio Taboada is also getting close to the milestone at 94-35 for his career that included two seasons at the University of Miami and two at Georgia.
MIXING IT UP: After a 2010-11 season in which the Bulldog doubles lineups were solidified early on, head coach Manuel Diaz has done some shuffling of his teams in 2011-12. So far in 2012 Diaz’s Bulldogs have gone with 22 different doubles team combinations out of a total of 66 possibilities.
ON DECK: The Bulldogs will next head to the 2012 SEC Championships April 19-22 at the Pitts Tennis Centre in Starkville, Miss. The draw for the tournament will be released when all matches conclude this weekend. All 12 teams make the field, with the top four seeds receiving byes into the quarterfinals.