ORLANDO, Fla. - In another nail biter, top-seeded Georgia finished on top Saturday evening after defeating Duke, 4-2, in the NCAA Semifinals to send the Bulldogs to the 2019 NCAA DI Women's Tennis Championship.
This time, Georgia did not trail in the match as opposed to yesterday's battle, however it came down to the last two courts - both in third sets. After sophomore Vivian Wolff put Georgia up 3-2, the Bulldogs needed just one point from either freshman Meg Kowalski or junior Marta Gonzalez to advance to the program's fourth title match in program history.
At the time of Wolff's win, Gonzalez, ranked No. 19 in ITA singles, trailed 2-4 on court two to No. 33 Meible Chi on court two. Four courts away, Kowalski led 4-1 on court six to Duke freshman Margaryta Bilokin. In the next two games, Gonzalez evened it at 4-all on two deuce points, but Bilokin got two games on Kowalski. Then it went 5-all, and 5-4, respectively, with attention bouncing between the two courts. Bilokin jumped out to a 30-0 lead on serve, but Kowalski fought it to 30-all, then went ahead 40-30, only for Bilokin to force deuce point. The final point lasted 28 seconds until Bilokin's shot landed long, securing the Bulldogs advancement.
Georgia moves on to face No. 3-seed Stanford Sunday at 5 pm. ET. For the third-straight match, the Bulldogs' match will be on the Tennis Channel. The Cardinal were the Bulldogs' opponent in all three of Georgia's previous title matches with the Georgia going 2-1. Stanford took the first in 1987, but Georgia became Champions in 1994 and 2000. Earlier this season, UGA defeated Stanford in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoors when Georgia grabbed its fourth indoor championship.
"I did not think that anything could top last night, but then of course we have this match tonight, " Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. "I'm just really proud of this group. Doubles was great today. I was really impressed with how we got off to a fast start and played unbelievable doubles to get that point. It turned out to be really huge for us. We are playing these matches here at the end [referring to the conclusion]. We are 5-4, 5-5 in third sets. We only need one. And it makes it so much easier than having to get both of them. Marta [Gonzalez] did a great job to stay alive, being down a lot but continue to fight back. That helped us a ton. Of course, Katarina [Jokic] being the first off the court for the next match in a row got us to two was huge. Vivian [Wolff] battled. What a warrior she was today. Lastly, all eyes on Meg [Kowalski] at six. My goodness, she played just incredible tennis down there. That is two nights in a row for her. She just has been absolutely amazing."
For the match's first point, Georgia came out strong, controlling doubles for the 1-0 lead. On court one, the No. 28-ranked duo of sophomore Katarina Jokic and freshman Lourdes Carle defeated No. 47 Kelly Chen and Ellyse Hamlin, 6-2, without dropping a serve. The clinch came on court two with junior Elena Christofi and Wolff coming back from 1-4 to prevail over No. 24 Kaitlyn McCarthy and Chi, 6-4. Gonzalez and Kowalski led 5-3 on court three without trailing.
Responding to the call, the Blue Devils brought it early in singles. Duke took three first sets to Georgia one with Wolff and Kowalski left to force the split. Both Bulldogs answered the bell to with 6-3 and 7-5 first sets, respectively.
In the second sets, No. 2-ranked Jokic got off the court first with a 6-0, 6-4 win over No. 11 Maria Mateas for the 2-0 lead and her 16th ranked win of the season. Duke evened in at 2-all with wins on courts three and five. At that point, Wolff was in a grueling second-set tiebreaker that she outlasted McCarthy for the 6-3, 7-6 (8) win.
It was then that Georgia went up 3-2 and brought all the action focused on Gonzalez and Kowalski.
For Kowalski, it marked her ninth clinch of the season and she improved to 25-1 overall. Notably, Gonzalez fought tremendously as she was down 1-5 in the second set and overcame at least three match points and ultimate win a tiebreaker to force the third.
The win put Georgia at 28-1 for the season - a new program record.