Stanford, Calif.----- The third-ranked and No. 2 seed Georgia Lady Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships, defeating the 12th-ranked Cal Bears 4-1 Thursday at the Taube Family Tennis Center. The match wasn't as close as it looked. The Bears took the doubles point and won two first sets in singles.
"I thought that they played great. All the matches out here were hard fought. Every single match came down to the end," said Georgia Head Coach Jeff Wallace. "That's been our season. Every match it seems like it's this close. We fight hard and show a lot of Bulldog spirit and pride. We just find a way to get through it"
Georgia dropped the doubles point for just the 5th time this season. The Bears took the lead early on two of the three courts. At No. 1, Cal's Raquel Kops-Jones and Christina Fusano jumped out to a 3-1 lead over Lady Bulldogs Agata Cioroch and Lori Grey. The Georgia duo fought back and held serve to tie the match at 4-4, but Kops-Jones and Fusano won the next four games to take the win 8-4. At No. 3, the Georgia pair of Anne Nguyen and Alex Smith took the lead, 3-1, over Carla Arguelles and Nicole Havlicek of Cal. The Bears' duo broke the Lady Bulldogs' serve and then held serve to go up 5-4. Nguyen and Smith closed the margin to 7-5, but couldn't hold on. Cal's team won the match 8-5, clinching the doubles point. The Bears also took an early lead at No. 2. Cal's duo of Jieun Jacobs and Jody Scheldt took a 4-1 lead over Tina Hojnik and Mariel Verban. The Lady Bulldog pair then won four straight games, holding serve to go up 5-4. But the Bears' team also held to tie it at 5-5. Jacobs and Scheldt led 7-6 over Hojnik and Verban when the match was suspended.
"I was disappointed at the doubles. I thought we came out a little flat. I just didn't feel we played like we should," said Wallace. "We've won about 90% of our doubles points this year. I just didn1t feel like we played up to our potential."
In singles, the Lady Bulldogs came roaring back. Georgia took four first sets in singles. At No. 3, it was no contest. Georgia's Nguyen put the Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard with her straight set, 6-1, 6-1 win over Jacobs. Grey then put Georgia up 2-1 as she crushed Scheldt 6-4, 6-4 at No. 4. Court one finished up next. Cioroch took the first set 6-2 over Kops-Jones. She then went up 3-1 in the second before Kops-Jones fought back and took the second set 7-5. In the third set, Cioroch was up 2-1 when Kops-Jones suffered a cramp in her left thigh and had to retire from the match. Georgia was in a position to clinch the match at either #2, #5, or #6. At No. 2, Verban led Fusano 5-2 in the first set, but Fusano broke Verban's serve to tie the set at 5-5. She took the first set 7-5. The second set was the exact opposite. Fusano jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Then Verban broke Fusano's serve to even the set 3-3. Verban won the second set 6-4. The match was suspended in the third set with the score tied at 2-2. At No. 6, Smith outlasted Havlicek 7-6 (2) in the first set. Havlicek led 4-1 in the second, but Smith broke her to tie the match at 5-5. The match was suspended with a score of 6-6. Havlicek led 4-5 over Smith in the tiebreak. The Lady Bulldogs clinched the match at No. 5 where Tina Hojnik fought back to defeat Arguelles 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Georgia now advances to the quarterfinals and will face UCLA. The Lady Bulldogs are 4-3 versus the Bruins, but have never them in the NCAA Tournament. The last meeting came in 2000 in Los Angeles. Georgia defeated the Bruins 5-4. UCLA's last win came in 1996.
Georgia's quarterfinal match versus UCLA will Friday at 8 a.m. PDT at the Taube Family Tennis