UK Defeats Georgia, Advances to SEC Finals
April 23, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After winning the doubles point behind two key upsets, the No. 11 University of Kentucky men's tennis team won three singles match by straight sets, including junior Eric Quigley's clinching point in a second-set tiebreaker, to defeat second-seeded and No. 5-ranked Georgia 4-0 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Center in Gainesville, Fla.
The win over Georgia gives UK 26 wins in 2011, breaking the school record for wins in a single season, which was last year. Kentucky has now set a school record for wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in the modern era of the program, which dates back to the late 1960s.
UK's victory over the Bulldogs was the first for Kentucky since the 2003 team took down the SEC foe 4-3 in Lexington. It was Kentucky's first win over UGA away from Lexington since Kentucky won at Georgia in 1997. The Wildcats are now 17-7 against ranked foes this season, including a stretch of five consecutive matches.
"Obviously, it's a big win for our program," Kentucky head coach Dennis Emery said. "It's only the second time ever that we've been in the finals of the SEC Tournament, so it's a big win for us to beat Georgia. Georgia is always one of the best teams in the conference and in the country and this year is no different. They have a great team and I am proud of how our guys stepped up to the challenge today to get the win."
The match started with Kentucky taking the doubles point, moving UK to 14-3 this season when it claims the doubles point. After Drake Bernstein and Wil Spencer took down UK's tandem of Anthony Rossi and Alejandro Gomez - who was playing doubles for junior Alex Musialek to get more rest after the long singles match Friday against Auburn - Kentucky won the next two matches.
Senior Brad Cox and Quigley, ranked 35th in the nation in doubles, posted its biggest doubles win of the season, taking down No. 5 Javier Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters 8-6. Cox and Quigley defeated the highly ranked Georgia duo in the team's regular-season dual match earlier this season and have now posted wins over three top-15 duos in UK's last six matches.
Kentucky clinched the doubles point at No. 2 doubles when No. 83 senior Alberto Gonzalez and freshman Tom Jomby took down No. 64 Sadio Doumbia and Ignacio Taboada 8-5. The UK duo had already defeated the Georgia tandem once this season when they were ranked 36th in the nation. Gonzalez and Jomby had not played together in doubles since UK's loss to then-No. 3 Ohio State in Lexington on April 6.
"Doubles was obviously the key to the match," Emery said. "We made a decision to pull [Alex] Musialek out of doubles because of cramping yesterday. That ended up being a very good decision - he played great at No. 2 singles."
Singles started with Rossi posting a dominating 6-3, 6-0 victory over Pieters at No. 5 singles, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. The win moved Rossi to 9-1 this season against SEC opponents in dual matches and an impressive 18-5 overall this spring. The native of Marseille, France has won four of his last five matches.
No. 83 Gonzalez gave Kentucky a 3-0 lead at No. 4 singles, earning a straight-sets victory over Bernstein. Gonzalez earned a break in the first set to roll to a 6-3 win before the two players would hold serve a majority of the second set. With Quigley appeared to be heading into a second-set tiebreaker that would eventually determine the match, Gonzalez grabbed the lone break of the second set to take a 5-4 lead and then held serve to grab the second set and the match 6-3, 6-4.
"I am very proud of Alberto Gonzalez," Emery said. "He had lost to Bernstein twice the last two times that they played each other. Our associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann came up with a really good game plan today and thank goodness Alberto was good enough to execute it. All the credit goes to the players, but I thought it was a really good game plan. That was a big key to the match."
The path was then paved for Quigley to be the hero, claiming the straight-sets victory over No. 31 Garrapiz. Quigley, ranked fourth in the nation, jumped all over Garrapiz to start the match, earning two quick breaks to take a 5-1 lead before the UGA senior would make a valiant comeback to cut it to 5-4. Quigley would then hold serve to win the first set and get another quick break in the second set to look to be in cruise control. However, Garrapiz would rally similarly to his first-set rally, tying the match at 5-5 before holing serve to take a 6-5 lead. Quigley would hold serve to force a tiebreaker at 6-6 and after trailing 5-4 in the breaker the Kentucky junior earned three straight points to win the match and clinch the UK victory.
"Quigley played a great match," Emery said. "He served for the second set and could have easily gone away at that point when he didn't get it. Knowing how much it meant to all of us, he kept his composure and was able to hang in there to win a tie-breaker in the second set."
Kentucky will face the winner of Tennessee and Florida in the finals Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.