Herring, Kowase hope third time’s a charm against Alabama in NCAA doubles final

The Georgia women’s tennis program has produced a pair of national championships, three NCAA singles winners but has yet to be the last ones standing after the doubles finals.

Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase can change that Monday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

“Let’s do it,” Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said after Herring and Kowase high-fived some Bulldogs fans that were reaching down to court one after their 6-4, 7-5 victory Sunday over Auburn’s Emily Flickinger and Pleun Burmans.

The No. 2-seeded Herring and Kowase moved on to an All-Southeastern Conference final against Alabama’s No. 4-seeded Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe, a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 winner over Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar.

Georgia has reached the women’s doubles finals four times before, last in 2012 with Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist. Herring was surprised that she can be part of a first for the Bulldogs.

“Really?” Herring said. “I didn’t know that no one’s ever won it, so that would be really cool. Yeah, we are just excited to be here. When you start the tournament, you don’t really think this far ahead, you take it match by match. Now that we’re actually here, it’s really cool and awesome to be at home and we have the best fans. It doesn’t even need to be said.”

Herring and Kowase dropped a pair of 8-3 decisions against Jansen and Routliffe on April 11 and 20.

“They always play great against us, but third time’s the charm,” Herring said.

Said Kowase: “We have such a huge help from our fans, so we just need to use that and enjoy this moment.”

Leading 5-4 in the first set against their No. 15 ranked opponent, Georgia withstood an Auburn break point when Kowase did work with an overhead smash and then a drop shot at the net to clinch the set.

 “I just didn’t think, I just trusted my instinct,” Kowase said.

Added Wallace: “It’s been two straight days of some of their best tennis and that’s what you want to see at this point and time.”

Trailing 5-4 in the second set, Georgia won all four points on Herring’s serve and then broke Auburn in the next game that began with Flickinger double faulting twice. Georgia closed out the match with Kowase serving.

“I felt like the whole match…was just about getting that break,” Herring said. “Especially with Pleun being a big lefty and having that huge serve  it was really important for us to get that initial break against Flickinger.”

Wallace called the match “high-level tennis, both teams. Our guys are loose and just enjoying this ride and looking forward to (Monday).”

The doubles finals will be played after the singles finals, which starts at noon today.

UCLA’s Marcos Giron, the only top eight seeded player in singles on either the men’s or women’s side to get past the quarterfinals, earned a finals spot by beating Texas’ Soran Hess-Olsen 7-5, 6-3.

It will be a men’s final of players from Southern California.

Giron, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., will meet Pepperdine’s Alex Sarkissian, who hails from Glendale, Calif.

Sarkissian rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 over Harvard’s Denis Nguyen.

The No. 2 seed Giron saw his teammate, top-seed Clay Thompson go down in the first round.

“He said `Go get the title, man,’” Giron said.  “I’m happy to make it here. (Monday) will be fun.”

Giron beat Sarkissian 6-2, 6-3 on Feb. 22 at UCLA.

“I know it’s a different story here in Georgia where it’s nice and hot and everyone’s playing good tennis,” Giron said.

The women’s final matches California’s Lynn Chi and Virginia’s Danielle Collins, native Floridians who grew up knowing each other in junior tennis circles.

They were the survivors of semifinals made up of all unseeded players.

Chi, who upset top-seed Jamie Loeb of North Carolina in the quarterfinals, was pushed to a third-set tiebreaker by Georgia State’s Abigail Tere-Apisah. Chi got pivotal breaks with Tere-Apisah twice serving for the match and pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) decision.

“I was just trying to calm myself down and just stay in the match,” said Chi, from Weston, Fla. “A few points in the 5-6 game went my way and so in the tiebreak, I just went for it. I literally went for broke and most of the balls went my way so I’m glad for that.”

Chi, ranked No. 24, said: “I was glad to just get into the tournament. I did not even imagine me being in the finals.”

Even with the loss Tere-Apisah, a senior from Papua New Guinea, still had the only top four finish by a Georgia State individual athlete at an NCAA event.

No Virginia player had reached the NCAA women’s quarterfinals before Collins, a St, Petersburg, Fla., native and transfer from Florida who is ranked No. 32 and is having quite a debut season for the Cavaliers.

“It was definitely a big surprise and all credit goes to the coaches for dealing with me and helping me develop and get better,” Collins said.

Collins held off Duke’s Ester Goldfeld 6-3, 7-6 (3) after being forced to a second-set tiebreaker when Goldfeld rallied from down 5-2.

Collins won the first five points of the tiebreaker and notched the victory.

“I had good momentum and I was looking forward to just grinding it out,” Collins said. “Those are always fun.”

Collins beat the tournament’s No. 2 and 7 seeds along the way to the final.

Now she’s one win away from the championship.