Due to injuries and other personnel moves, Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist have not played doubles together much since the beginning of April.
It’s for that reason that when the two Bulldog seniors reunited for the NCAA women’s doubles tournament earlier this week, they brought a solid gameplan with them.
The plan? Keep it simple.
And as Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said Sunday, “Simple is winning,” as Gullickson and Gilchrist won for the fourth consecutive day and advanced to today’s championship finals by dusting off UCLA’s Courtney Dolehide and Pam Montez 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The Georgia duo — ranked No. 27th and unseeded in the doubles tournament — will face Stanford’s Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs, the No. 2 seeded team, which defeated Tennessee’s Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely 7-6 (1), 6-1 on Sunday.
Burdette and Gibbs will make college tennis history today as they are the only players to face each other in the singles finals before teaming up to compete in the doubles championship.
Seeded No. 3 in the singles tournament, Gibbs eliminated No. 1 Allie Will of Florida 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday while Burdette, seeded No. 5, defeated California’s Zsofi Susanyi 6-2, 6-2. Burdette teamed with Hilary Barte in 2011 to win the doubles championship and was member of Sanford’s 2010 national-championship team.
Gullickson, Gilchrist and Wallace don’t think having Burdette and Gibbs play each other in singles earlier in the day will present Georgia any sort of an advantage in today’s championship final.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve got an edge,” said Gullickson, who with Gilchrist is 24-7 this year and 64-20 in their careers. “(Burdette and Gibbs) might be a little tired, but they’ll be fired up. It’s the finals of doubles of NCAAs. They’ll be fired up. But that’s not something we’re thinking about.”
“We’re not thinking about that, but it would be nice if (the singles match) was 7-6, 6-7, 7-6,” quipped Wallace, who coached Gullickson and Gilchrist to the doubles semfinals two years ago.
With simplicity at the core of their game, Gullickson and Gilchrist served well, returned UCLA’s serves well and kept focused on backing each other up. The Bulldog tandem went ahead 3-0 in the first set, but was broken by Dolehide and Montez three times, the last of which put the Bruins up 6-5.
But Georgia broke UCLA to make it 6-6 and jumped out to a 5-2 advantage in the tiebreaker, only to have Dolehide and Montez rally back to 6-5 before Gullickson put out the fire with a winning serve.
“I wasn’t worried at all when they started coming back in the tiebreaker because I knew we were going to get it done,” said Gilchrist, a three-time All-American for the Bulldogs.
“They got down and had to break twice to get that first set and played a fantastic tiebreaker to close it out,” added Wallace. “It was a well-played first set. I thought Nadja hit some down-the-line balls that were just absolutely amazing and Chelsey served that last game fantastic.”
The second set offered a little drama as UCLA ran out to a 3-1 advantage before Georgia captured five of the next six points to punch its ticket to the finals.
“They definitely played the big points better than we did,” said UCLA’s Montez. “We both tended to miss a lot of first serves, whereas they stayed tough, which was probably the difference.”
“They’re really strong and played really well,” added Dolehide. “We had opportunities and just didn’t convert a lot of them. We were up in the second set in the beginning and they played a few good points and we played a few loose points, and the momentum definitely shifted.”
On Sunday, Gullickson, the only eight-time All-America selection in Georgia tennis history, tied a record she already shared with two former Bulldogs for combined singles and doubles victories in a season at 69 (34-9 in singles, 35-12 in doubles). She tied the record in 2009.