The Pepperdine women’s tennis team hasn’t lost a match since March 11, going on an 18-match winning streak. The streak didn’t come to an end, as Pepperdine defeated Georgia in the Round of 16 of the NCAA tennis tournament at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, 4-3.
With Georgia’s match with Pepperdine tied at 3, the Bulldogs’ chance of advancing in the NCAA tournament came down to Court 1.
Georgia’s Ellen Perez battled with Pepperdine’s Luisa Stefani for the match win. Back and forth the match went through the first set, with Perez squeaking out a 7-6 (8) win before dropping the second set, 6-2, thus forcing a third set.
But Georgia’s hopes of advancing dwindled and burned out, as Stefani pulled away in the third set and won, 6-2.
“I don’t think Stefani did too much different [in the last two sets]. I think it was on my racket; I came up with too many errors,” Perez said. “My backside is hurt a little bit so my serve probably went down a bit and she probably capitalized on that but I thought she started serving even better in the third [set] and it was hard to return.”
All of Georgia’s wins on Friday afternoon came off the singles court after Georgia dropped the doubles point early on.
Kennedy Shaffer held on to quick win against Mayar Ahmed, putting the Bulldogs on the board with a 6-2, 6-3 score. Mariana Gould on Court 6 followed Shaffer, keeping Georgia alive with 6-4, 6-3 win, and Caroline Brinson gave the Bulldogs a chance on Court 4 by defeating Laura Gulbe 6-2, 6-3.
“Obviously, the way we rolled in three of our singles matches, if you get that doubles point it’s a whole different day,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said.
All the success on the singles court set up a decisive third set on Court 1, but Perez couldn’t hold and Pepperdine moved on, keeping a now 19-match win streak alive into the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
The loss ends not only Georgia’s team season but also Brinson’s team career with Georgia. The senior began and ended her career at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex as the NCAA tournament was hosted in Athens during her freshman and senior year.
“The opportunity that I had to play NCAAs here my freshman and senior year is something that doesn’t come around very often and [happen] to many people, so I am very grateful for that opportunity,” Brinson said. “Today is a tough pill to swallow, but I had a blast playing in front of that crowd, there is nothing like playing here in Athens.”
Wallace, who coached not only Brinson but her mother as well, had a lot to say about his lone senior following Friday’s loss.
“Caroline, as team her last match, had an amazing career and has done an unreal job both on and off the court. Mostly sad for her that her season, her career, kind of comes to an end this way,” Wallace said. “Its not too often that a coach gets to coach a mom who is an amazing athlete and a daughter who is an amazing person and athlete too.”
Georgia ends it’s run at the NCAA tournament with a 19-6 record, unable to find one set win to push forward in the tournament.
“[Pepperdine] found a way to get one more match and that is what NCAA tennis is all about: just finding ways,” Wallace said. “It looked like for a little bit we were about to find that way but then [Pepperdine] did.”