Husky Upset Bid of No. 2 Georgia Falls Just Short
Feb. 15, 2008
SEATTLE - The second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs withstood a major challenge from the underdog Husky men's tennis team today in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Bulldogs escaped with a 4-2 win before hundreds of UW fans at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.
Georgia (5-0) showed the fortitude that led them to an undefeated season and the NCAA Championship last year, outlasting a Husky team with a history of first round upsets in this tournament. Washington (4-3), hosting the event for the fifth time, needed wins in the final two singles matches, but their hopes were ended in a tiebreaker as Georgia's Jamie Hunt overcame UW's Andy Kuharszky at No. 3 singles.
"We play every match to win and this one was no different," said head coach Matt Anger. "Obviously when it's in a national championship, there's a little bit more at stake. There were some opportunities that passed us by, but we weren't missing a lot of balls. Their guys came out and made shots. We put the pressure on them and they responded, so good for them."
The Huskies lost a heartbreaking doubles point in a high-quality battle. Playing stellar tennis at No. 2 doubles, freshman Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and junior Patrik Fischer routed Georgia's Travis Helgeson and Josh Varela, 8-2. The Bulldogs then evened things up with an 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles over David Chu and Martin Kildahl.
In the deciding No. 1 match, senior Andy Kuharszky served for the match up 7-6 with sophomore Derek Drabble, but Georgia's Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg refused to go down, breaking serve and then breaking once again after a hold, to give Georgia the point.
The Huskies quickly shook off the disappointment in singles play. The first two matches in the books were Husky wins. Junior Ryo Sekiguchi continues to be a major force in the back of the lineup, downing Josh Varela, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 6 singles. That was followed up by Nedunchezhiyan posting the biggest win of his career, a 6-3, 6-4 upset of 17th-ranked Nate Schnugg, the first top-20 win by a Husky this year, and hopefully the first of many for the talented freshman.
"It would feel a lot better if we had won the match," said Nedunchezhiyan. "I think everybody came out with their best efforts, so I'm really proud of everybody on the team. It makes me believe that we belong out here. I just hope everyone recovers for tomorrow and we come out and put on even a better show and get the win."
Georgia surged back in front with wins at No. 4 and No. 1 singles. Javier Garrapiz knocked off Drabble, 6-4, 6-4 at the four spot, then Helgeson, the nation's fourth-ranked singles player, wore down Fischer, 7-5, 6-2 in the top spot.
The final two matches were as tight as could be. At fifth singles, freshman Tobi Obenaus bounced back from a first-set tiebreak loss, hanging a 6-0 set on Christian Vitulli. Meanwhile Kuharszky, also a first-set tiebreak loser, was pushing for a third set against 67th-ranked Jamie Hunt. Three match points weighed against Kuharszky as he served down 4-5 and 0-40, but a series of deep forehands and pinpoint volleys dug him out. The two went to another tiebreak, and Kuharszky went ahead 6-3 with two serves coming. Hunt, though, saved all three and went ahead 7-6. Then it was Kuharszky's turn to save match point, which he did with a miraculous volley that left even the Georgia players applauding and shaking their heads.
The next point, Kuharszky sent a forehand long, and Hunt finally cashed in on his fifth match point, winning by the final of 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7). Obenaus' No. 5 singles match was abandoned with Obenaus up 3-2 in the third set.
Washington will now have to stay up late to face 10th-seeded Alabama in the consolation bracket tomorrow. Alabama lost to Texas, who moves on to face Georgia. The Huskies and Crimson Tide are scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Other winners on day one of the tournament included top-seed Virginia, No. 8 UCLA, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 6 USC. The day's lone upset was 13th-seeded Oklahoma State, who knocked off Baylor, the four seed, 4-2 in the morning's first match.
Quarterfinal matches begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center, and back draw play begins at the same time at the Seattle Tennis Club.
Washington Men's Tennis
(2) Georgia 4, (15) Washington 2