ATHENS — It was a big weekend for UGA athletics, especially for men’s tennis and women’s softball. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Diaz’s Dogs back in Final Four
Georgia is back in the Final Four of men’s tennis, and there the Bulldogs will meet an old friend.
The seventh-seeded Bulldogs stunned No. 2 North Carolina 4-0 on Sunday afternoon to advance to the NCAA Championship semifinals for the first time since 2013. Georgia took the doubles point, and then quickly knocked off the Tar Heels at the bottom three singles positions.
“I’m so excited about the fact that these guys have worked so hard and overcome so much this year,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said in Tulsa. “Everybody has really pulled together and, to me, that’s the most rewarding thing to see, how our team has come together.”
This will be the 22nd trip to the semifinals for Georgia. The Bulldogs (24-4) are in search of their seventh all-time NCAA title. They won their last one in 2008 in Tulsa.
The victory sets up a storybook matchup in the Final Four. Former Bulldog John Roddick is the coach at Oklahoma, and he has been doing a good job of it. With their dramatic 4-3 upset victory of No. 3 UCLA late Sunday, the 11th-seeded Sooners (19-10) advance to the semis for the third consecutive year.
Roddick is a four-time All-American at UGA who served as Diaz’s assistant for two years. Sunday’s clincher in front of raucous pro-Oklahoma crowd in Tulsa had Roddick reminiscing about his Georgia days.
“That was probably by far the most people that have ever watched the Sooners play tennis,” Roddick said. “I’m sure for the guys it’s fun to play in. I can speak from experience playing at Georgia in front of Georgia’s crowd in the NCAA’s. And it’s something you never forget.”
2. UGA softball back in Supers
Georgia got a record-setting effort from Tina Iosefa at the plate this weekend, as the Bulldogs were able to advance past Oklahoma State and win the NCAA Athens Regional it hosted at Jack Turner Stadium. Iosefa tallied three RBIs in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader against Oklahoma State (32-26), leading the Bulldogs (43-18) to a 6-0 victory. It was a winner-takes-all game as the Cowgirls had won 5-3 in the first game.
Iosefa now has 86 RBIs on the season, which gives her the school and SEC single-season record for RBIs.
It’s a tough draw for the Bulldogs, however, as they’ll next head Gainesville, Fla., to face the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators in the Super Regional round. The Gators have won the last two national championships.
3. Women’s golf wanes
UGA’s women’s golf team had a disappointing finish to an otherwise successful 2016 campaign when they shot 10-over-par 298 on Sunday to fall to 23-over overall through 54 holes. As a result, the No. 6-ranked Bulldogs failed to advance in stroke play of the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore, and finish 18th. The top 15 advance to the final round of stroke play on Monday, then the top eight move on to match play.
“It’s not what we wanted,” coach Josh Brewer said. “We’ll learn from this. We missed the cut by a few shots but, at the same time, we came here to finish in the top eight and make match play. … We had an off week and picked the wrong time to do it.”
Freshman Bailey Tardy led Georgia with her second-straight even-par 72, but the rest of the team were all over par with Harang Lee (73), Jillian Hollis (75) and Rinko Mitsunaga (75) counting scores.
4. Men’s golf tees eyes title
Georgia’s men’s golf team will try to do the women one better as they tee off in the NCAA championships later this week in Eugene. Led by senior Lee McCoy and junior Greyson Sigg, the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs also won their regional and enter the championships with hopes of winning coach Chris Haack his third national title.
Sigg won medalist honors at the Tuscaloosa Regional and McCoy is considered one of the top collegiate players in the country. McCoy was profiled in The AJC this weekend.
5. Baseball blunders
Thanks to a really bad week, Georgia’s baseball team will need to win the SEC tournament championship this week in Hoover, Ala., to fulfill its goal of reaching an NCAA regional for the first time in three seasons under coach Scott Stricklin.
Needing a sweep, the Bulldogs (27-29) instead lost three of four this past weekend, starting with last Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech at Turner Field and ending Saturday with their second-straight loss to a struggling Tennessee team. In all three cases, UGA was either tied or in the lead when it was overtaken in the final inning of the game.
Georgia, seeded 10th in the 12-team tournament, will open against No. 7 seed Ole Miss on Tuesday at 2 p.m. The Rebels took two of three from the Bulldogs earlier this season in Athens.