The Georgia women‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs do it,‚Äù 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‚Äôs Emily Flickinger and Pleun Burmans.
The No. 2-seeded Herring and Kowase moved on to an All-Southeastern Conference¬†final against Alabama‚Äôs No. 4-seeded Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe, a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 winner over Duke‚Äôs Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar.
Georgia has reached the women‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúReally?‚Äù Herring said. ‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt know that no one‚Äôs ever won it, so that would be really cool. Yeah, we are just excited to be here. When you start the tournament, you don‚Äôt really think this far ahead, you take it match by match. Now that we‚Äôre actually here, it‚Äôs really cool and awesome to be at home and we have the best fans. It doesn‚Äôt even need to be said.‚Äù
Herring and Kowase dropped a pair of 8-3 decisions against Jansen and Routliffe on April 11 and 20.
‚ÄúThey always play great against us, but third time‚Äôs the charm,‚Äù Herring said.
Said Kowase: ‚ÄúWe have such a huge help from our fans, so we just need to use that and enjoy this moment.‚Äù
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.
¬†‚ÄúI just didn‚Äôt think, I just trusted my instinct,‚Äù Kowase said.
Added Wallace: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been two straight days of some of their best tennis and that‚Äôs what you want to see at this point and time.‚Äù
Trailing 5-4 in the second set, Georgia won all four points on Herring‚Äôs serve and then broke Auburn in the next game that began with Flickinger double faulting twice. Georgia closed out the match with Kowase serving.
‚ÄúI felt like the whole match‚Ä¶was just about getting that break,‚Äù Herring said. ‚ÄúEspecially with Pleun being a big lefty and having that huge serve¬† it was really important for us to get that initial break against Flickinger.‚Äù
Wallace called the match ‚Äúhigh-level tennis, both teams. Our guys are loose and just enjoying this ride and looking forward to (Monday).‚Äù
The doubles finals will be played after the singles finals, which starts at noon today.
UCLA‚Äôs Marcos Giron, the only top eight seeded player in singles on either the men‚Äôs or women‚Äôs side to get past the quarterfinals, earned a finals spot by beating Texas‚Äô Soran Hess-Olsen 7-5, 6-3.
It will be a men‚Äôs final of players from Southern California.
Giron, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., will meet Pepperdine‚Äôs Alex Sarkissian, who hails from Glendale, Calif.
Sarkissian rallied for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 over Harvard‚Äôs Denis Nguyen.
The No. 2 seed Giron saw his teammate, top-seed Clay Thompson go down in the first round.
‚ÄúHe said `Go get the title, man,‚Äô‚Äù Giron said. ¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôm happy to make it here. (Monday) will be fun.‚Äù
Giron beat Sarkissian 6-2, 6-3 on Feb. 22 at UCLA.
‚ÄúI know it‚Äôs a different story here in Georgia where it‚Äôs nice and hot and everyone‚Äôs playing good tennis,‚Äù Giron said.
The women‚Äôs final matches California‚Äôs Lynn Chi and Virginia‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI was just trying to calm myself down and just stay in the match,‚Äù said Chi, from Weston, Fla. ‚ÄúA 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‚Äôm glad for that.‚Äù
Chi, ranked No. 24, said: ‚ÄúI was glad to just get into the tournament. I did not even imagine me being in the finals.‚Äù
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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúIt was definitely a big surprise and all credit goes to the coaches for dealing with me and helping me develop and get better,‚Äù Collins said.
Collins held off Duke‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI had good momentum and I was looking forward to just grinding it out,‚Äù Collins said. ‚ÄúThose are always fun.‚Äù
Collins beat the tournament‚Äôs No. 2 and 7 seeds along the way to the final.
Now she‚Äôs one win away from the championship.