Posted: 9:52 a.m. Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By Chip Towers
THE TEN AT 10:
1. The Georgia Bulldogs came tantalizingly close to another national championship in men’s tennis. The SEC regular season and tournament champions reached the semifinals of the NCAA championships on Monday before falling to undefeated Virginia 4-1.
And as is often the case in men’s tennis, it was closer than the score indicated.Freshman Garrett Brasseaux saved five team match points at No. 5 singles, but Georgia needed to win three matches in third sets and the comeback bid ultimately fell short.
The loss snapped the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs’ 17-match win streak and ended their season at 26-5. But not before they reached the “Final Four” for the sixth time in the last eight seasons and the ninth time overall since the NCAA adopted the 64-team format in 1999. And, lest we forget, Georgia was playing without its top singles player, KU Singh, who abruptly quit the team on the eve of the tournament.
“It hurts to lose a really close match like this, but I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” coach Manuel Diaz said. “Virginia played a great match. We showed today that we are a championship team, and we’re only going to get better as we don’t lose any starters from the lineup. This experience will show the group how to win championships. It’s been a phenomenal time for me working with this group. They play their hearts out every week. I am glad they represent our university.”
2. Things are definitely looking up for the Bulldogs. The NCAA Championships return to Athens next year, and Georgia returns its entire lineup from this year’s team.
One of the positives of Singh moving on was it threw freshman Ben Wagland into the lineup at No. 1 singles. And Wagland responded. In the semifinal match against Virginia, Wagland, ranked 33rd in the nation in singles, knocked off No. 3-ranked Jarmere Jenkins in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3. Wagland just got better and better as the season continued.
With Nathan Pasha and Hernus Pieters also returning to provide leadership, and adding a top signee in 6-foot-7 junior sensation Paul Ossterbaan, the Bulldogs look like they could be favored when the championships return to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex next year.
3. In the meantime, the Bulldogs will continue play in Illinois in the individual and doubles competitions. Wagland and Pasha will compete in singles and Georgia will send two teams into doubles, Wagland and Pieters as well as the team of Pasha and Brasseaux.
4. Georgia women’s tennis team also saw its run end in the NCAA Championships in Illinois. The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (24-4) fell 4-1 to 12th-seeded Stanford in the quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon. Georgia won the doubles point for the 25th time this season but got smoked in singles. The Bulldogs were making their 27th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and reached the quarterfinals for the 21st time in program history.
"We accomplished a lot of great things this year, no doubt about it,” coach Jeff Wallace said. “We played some great doubles, maybe the best we have all year. It looked like we were going to take that into singles. You have to credit Stanford though, they came out in singles and played great at every spot and unfortunately it just wasn’t our day. I feel like this program did some unbelievable things this year and is headed in the right direction.”
Georgia features the nation’s top-ranked doubles team in Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia and they will begin play in the doubles draw on Thursday. Meanwhile, Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase will begin singles play on Wednesday.
5. It remains to be seen if it will have any effect whatsoever – I’m doubtful that it will – but the petition started by a UGA alumnus for the NCAA to restore the eligibility of football player Kolton Houston is at least bringing attention to his situation.
Jeremy Barton, a 2005 Georgia graduate who works in wine country out in California, started a petition about two weeks ago on the website Change.org. As of Tuesday morning it had gathered more than 4,400 signatures for the letter Barton penned to be sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert. Just as importantly, Barton and his actions have been chronicled at least a half-dozen times by regional and national publication.
If you’d like to read the letter or add your name to the list of signatures, you can CLICK HERE.
6. I went to Buckhead this past week to catch Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s appearance at the UGA Days stop there at the Marriott on Lenox Road. It was an enjoyable night and interesting to watch the Bulldogs’ fans hanging on Grantham’s every word.
I filed A REPORT that night, but there were some other interesting tidbits I gathered from Grantham fromn the time he spent with reporters beforehand and his 15 minutes or so with fans during the program.
It sounds like the noseguard competition most definitely will continue well into preseason practices, which begin in August. Junior Mike Thornton emerged from spring ahead of junior college transfer Chris Mayes in that battle but it’s far from over.
“There’s nothing that says that Jonathan Taylor cannot play there,” Grantham said. “John Atkins could player there. We have numerous guys that we can play in that position. We’ve probably got 11 guys up front that we feel can play with their hand in the dirt and we’ll mix and match those guys throughout August and September and see what gives us the best chance to be successful.”
7. The NCAA women’s golf championships are being held at the UGA Golf Course this week. Too bad Georgia’s golf team won’t be there to participate.
The Bulldogs came up two strokes short of advancing out of the Stanford Regional, so they won’t be involved in the team competition. It’s the fourth year in a row they’ve missed it. But for the fourth year in a row, Georgia will be represented in the individual competition. Senior Emilie Burger qualified. . . .
8. Of course, the big news this week was the dismissal of Georgia baseball coach David Perno after 12 years at the helm of the program. And, to be clear, it was a dismissal. UGA announced Perno’s departure as a “resignation,” but Perno was anything but resigned to that fate. He very much wanted to come back and coach the Bulldogs another year and had a plan for turning around the program, which has missed the NCAA tournament three of the last four years.
Instead the program will be carrying on without him, and that’s where the attention now turns. I discussed in my follow-up story filed late Monday some of the coaches who might be candidates to succeed Perno. One of those names I’ve found particularly intriguing.
Brad Weitzel is in his sixth season as the top assistant at Florida, which went to the College World Series for the third year in a row last season. Weitzel is a 1983 Georgia graduate and played baseball for the Bulldogs under coach Steve Webber. And, of course, UGA AD Greg McGarity would have known him in his time at Florida as the Gators’ No. 2 administrator.
Weitzel spent a lot of time in Florida as a scout for the Minnesota Twins before returning to college coaching with the Gators. He turns 56 in November. You can read Weitzel’s bio here on the Gators’ website.
9. For those keeping count, Perno's ouster represented the fourth coaching change initiated by McGarity in his three years as Georgia’s athletic director. McGarity has also fired coaches in volleyball, women’s golf and gymnastics.
10. This and that: Georgia junior center David Andrews has been named to the Rimington Trophy’s 2013 spring watch list. The 6-2, 295-pound native of Johns Creek is one of 44 players included on the list for the award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding center in college football. . . . The Bulldogs will be holding their end-of-year athletic board meeting this week at the King and Prince Report down on St. Simons Island. With the baseball situation decided, there probably won’t be much happening in the way of personnel news. . . . Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox said last week that basketball signee Cameron Forte will not be able to enroll at Georgia with the rest of the signees in early June. The 6-7 forward has to take one more class at Howard College in Texas before he can transfer. However, Fox expects Forte to be in Athens by early July. . . .