The No. 11 Georgia men’s tennis team advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament after defeating No. 6 North Carolina 4-3 in Lake Nona, Florida. The Bulldogs move to 17-6 on the season, and the Tar Heels’ season comes to an end at 21-4.
Georgia booked its trip to the quarterfinals behind the racket of Billy Rowe on court five. At 5-4, 40-0 in the second set, a forehand by North Carolina’s Josh Peck sailed into the net, earning Rowe the 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 victory and the onslaught of celebrating Bulldogs.
“Our team came to fight,” said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz. “They knew it wasn’t going to be easy. North Carolina is a great team. We have great friends over there in the coaching staff. We knew North Carolina was going to come out and give us its best shot, and we have a lot of respect for their team. For us, it was a matter of coming out and being ready to be challenged at every spot.”
The Bulldogs bounced back from an early deficit in doubles to clinch the point and take a 1-0 lead in the match. The seventh-ranked Georgia duo of Trent Bryde and Tyler Zink fell early at court one against third-ranked William Blumberg and Brian Cernoch in a 6-1 defeat, but Philip Henning and Erik Grevelius responded with a 6-4 win over Tar Heels Benjamin Sigouin and Rinky Hijikata at court three.
Blake Croyder and Rowe clinched the point for the Bulldogs in tiebreaker fashion — Rowe’s first of two clinching points in Monday’s match. The duo downed North Carolina’s Simon Soendergaard and Mac Kiger 7-6 (7-2). Georgia’s resilient doubles victory proved the difference between these two teams as they eventually split in singles play.
“We did a great job at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles,” Diaz said. “And that doubles point was really crucial. Our team really just responded to the challenge that North Carolina put forth in singles, and I could not be more proud.”
Henning started singles off with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sigouin, extending the Bulldogs lead to 2-0. The South African has yet to lose a match in NCAA Tournament play this season.
North Carolina responded with successive victories of its own. Cernoch defeated Croyder 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4, and Hijikata followed with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) win over Zink, evening the score at two apiece. Grevelius then put the Bulldogs back in front after beating Soendergaard 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 at No. 6, but the Tar Heels tied it at three as Blumberg defeated 15th-ranked Bryde 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) at No. 1.
Rowe’s victory against Peck at No. 5 completed the upset for the Bulldogs as they extended their stay in Lake Nona.
Georgia will play Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on May 20. These two SEC rivals last matched up on Feb. 19 where the Volunteers won 4-2 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.