³This was a win for the ages,² said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz. ³What a phenomenal effort by the entire team. Without a doubt, Strahinja Bobusic was our tournament MVP. He won all of his doubles matches the whole weekend along with Colin Purcell and he clinched the last two matches. To clinch a match like this three straight times is simply incredible, it is hard to fathom such an accomplishment. It was such a clutch performance. What a phenomenal effort by the whole team.²
Georgia continued its doubles dominance by winning the doubles point for the eighth time in as many tries this season. For the second consecutive match, the first two teams split, leaving the point hanging on the outcome of the third doubles result. Once again, junior Matic Omerzel and sophomore Luis Flores stepped up and beat Richard Johnson and Omar Altmann in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (7-1). Georgia¹s sixth-ranked senior captain duo of Bobusic and Colin Purcell had won the first doubles tilt, cruising past Pedro Rico and Ivor Lovrak, 8-3 at the No. 2 spot, while Pepperdine¹s tandem of Scott Doerner and Andre Begemann took down Georgia¹s junior John Isner and senior captain Antonio Ruiz at the No. 1 doubles position.
³Our doubles play has been outstanding all tournament long,² said Diaz. ³The way we hung in there and fought to win the doubles point just like we had done the whole weekend was tremendous. Our No. 2 and No. 3 teams came up huge again. Especially at No. 3, where Luis and Matic were down a service break at two different times in the match, they still fought and scrapped back to win in a tiebreaker.²
In singles play, Purcell extended the Georgia lead to 2-0 from the No. 3 singles position, as he eased past Altmann, 6-2, 6-3. Next up for the Dogs was Isner, as he had little trouble with his opponent, downing Rico in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, to set up Bobusic for the match-clincher.
³John was unbelievable today,² said Diaz. ³This morning he was barely able to walk. He had bruised his heel so badly in yesterday¹s match that the doctor actually thought it was fractured and he required that John get an x-ray just to be cleared to play. He was hobbled but he fought through it and really showed the heart of a champion. He has come up so big for this program time and time again, but none bigger than today.
³All of our singles players were playing very well,² continued Diaz. ³We won the first set in all but two matches and even those were very close. Antonio was headed to a third set at No. 3 and Matic was tied in the second set, and I think by the way he was playing he could very well have come back to win that match. Flores had won his first set and was up a game in the second when the match was completed.²
This match marked the second time that Georgia and Pepperdine have faced off in the finals of this tournament. In 1982, the Dogs fell to Waves in a thrilling 5-4 match. After splitting the singles matches, Pepperdine won the doubles to take down the championship. (The format for collegiate tennis matches was previously played with singles first, followed by doubles, and was played as a nine-point contest.)
The Bulldogs get back into action on Sunday, Feb. 26, as they host William & Mary at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. The match will be played outdoors, weather permitting, and is slated to get underway at 1 p.m.
³Our only job now is to get right back out there and keep trying to improve ourselves,² said Diaz. ³The most rewarding and exciting part for us is that we feel we can even play better tennis and get healthier all the time.²
More post-match quotes from Diaz (courtesy of the University of Washington): "We came into this tournament not 100% physically. We had some issues the previous three weeks. We haven't been able to have every man healthy at any one match. But, you know, sometimes things like that can spur you on, motivate you and inspire you. Even though we didn't play any top-10 teams in our matches prior to coming here, we had to overcome a lot. That really united our squad. It made every man feel like they were very important because they are. We just came in here and we just decided to take one match one day at a time and try to focus on being good for four days, not just spectacular on one day. We knew it was something we were going to have to sustain. You need a little bit of luck, you need a few breaks. I don't know how the heck we did it right now, except these guys just poured out their hearts in every match in helping each other get better."
"The score does not indicate one iota how tough, and gritty, and talented, and well-coached the Pepperdine team is. None at all. I've been on the other side where we've been beat in the finals 4-0 and we were really, really in the match. This was in no way a typical 4-0 match."
"We've been in the finals I don't know how many times before and not won it. This is the only national event we've never won as a program so this is a great tribute to our squad. So this is a big deal for us."
"I hope more than anything it gives them obviously a sense of confidence and a sense that we can win the close matches, that's the most important thing that I take out of it. We came in here and we had to win some close matches, we played great doubles. We won the doubles point each match. We found ourselves down 3-1 to Illinois and we had to overcome. I think that's something that becomes habit. The guys start believing they can do that then they play well in those situations because we're going to have those situations again down the road."