May 23, 2014
By Jamie Han
Grady Sports Media
ATHENS, Ga. -- Leaving home for college is a hard adjustment in itself, but 9,340 miles is another story. That’s how far away home is for University of Georgia tennis player Ben Wagland.
Yet the transition from Sydney, Australia, to Athens has not been the only big adjustment for him during his time at Georgia.
“The time change was tough for a week,” Wagland said. “They’re 14 hours ahead at home in Australia so that was tough but, luckily, there was nothing that stood out here as far as cultural changes.”
Wagland, along with doubles partner Hernus Pieters, advanced to today’s “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA doubles championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. They play Arjun Kadhe and Jakob Sude of Oklahoma State this afternoon.
After two years together, Pieters and Wagland’s days as partners will soon end as Pieters wraps up his senior season. When the time comes, it will be another challenge for Wagland to adjust to a new partner, but the two hope that they can end the season on a high note with a doubles title.
“I played with him for the last two years, and he’s been great for this university,” Wagland said. “I want to give him a good finish.”
Not only is Wagland productive on the court, he also excels in the classroom. A pre-business major, he just finished his sophomore year at UGA.
He has been named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll his first three semesters, with this past semester still pending. Academics were another big change Wagland had to face.
“Getting adapted to regular school life again [was difficult],” Wagland said. “I was home-schooled, so for the last three years I didn’t really have any structure studying, it was just whenever I wanted to.”
A year ago, just before the 2013 NCAA tennis championships, Wagland was faced with another big challenge. He was moved to the No. 1 singles spot for the tournament.
It would be his first time playing No. 1 singles in a match setting. Wagland went undefeated in his singles matches as the team advanced to the semifinals.
Prior to joining the Georgia tennis team, an individual win would usually be enough for Wagland since he had never played in a team setting.
“Before coming to college, everything’s about individuals,” Wagland said. “When you get to college, it’s all about the team. I really enjoy playing for a team, it puts more pride in the results and I’ve really enjoyed my time with the team.”
Han is a student in Grady Sports Media, a program at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.