Georgia lived up to its No. 2 national ranking on its way to the NCAA men’s tennis tournament round of 16.
The Bulldogs faced a bit of resistance from Northwestern Saturday, but notched a 4-0 victory for the second consecutive day at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
KU Singh’s absence from the Bulldogs’ lineup hasn’t been felt in the final results.
The nation’s fourth-ranked singles player quit the team just days before the tournament began, but the Bulldogs marched on without him.
Georgia got singles wins in the second round from the top of its lineup: No. 1 Ben Wagland, No. 2 Nathan Pasha and No. 3 Austin Smith, who all moved up in the lineup this week.
“The biggest thing is we knew that we’re capable of playing with anybody,” said Pasha, a sophomore ranked 47th in the nation who won 6-2, 6-3 against Raleigh Smith, ranked No. 87. “Ben’s doing a good job at one. I’m doing pretty well at two and from down on. We just have a bunch of guys that can compete at every spot.”
Georgia (24-4) has reached the round of 16 for the 10th consecutive year.
“I thought we played well,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz saud. “We responded well to a good team that was competing on every court and playing well, well-enough to win today. Our guys had to play their best tennis, and under the conditions I thought we played a very good match.
The third-seeded Bulldogs will play No. 14 seed Oklahoma (21-6) in the round of 16 Thursday at 10 a.m. in Urbana, Ill.
“I think we’ve got a good chance,” said Diaz, who is in his 25th season and has guided the Bulldogs to four national titles. “I don’t think we have an impossible task ahead of us. Everybody left in the field has earned their way. I think we’ve earned our way, and we’re not going there to finish second in the round of 16.”
Georgia has reached the quarterfinals every year since 2005, but getting there without Singh makes that quest tougher.
“On paper, it could,” Pasha said. “Psychologically, we don’t buy into it because we know the kind of talent we have, the kind of freshmen we have. … Given the work ethic, the fight that we have and the belief that we have, we believe we can do it and we believe we’re the same as we were before. That’s how we’re going to go to Illinois with that mindset.”
The Sooners defeated NC State 4-0 on Saturday.
They are coached by John Roddick, a four-time All-American at Georgia from 1995-98 and brother of now-retired tennis star Andy Roddick. Former Georgia All-American and Athens native Bo Hodge is a Sooners assistant.
The teams met in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2010 in Athens, with the Bulldogs taking a 4-0 win.
“It should be a tremendous match,” Diaz said. “I always thought Oklahoma was a top eight team and they’re in a position now to compete for a spot in the next round. We’re both going in there hungry. We both have a lot to prove.”
Northwestern (22-10) racked up its most wins since 1988, but a day after dropping the doubles point and rallying to upset 19th-ranked Wake Forest, the Wildcats couldn’t break through on the scoreboard this time.
The Bulldogs’ No. 1 doubles team of Wagland and Hernus Pieters, ranked fifth in the nation, won 8-3 and the team of Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux, ranked 15th, followed with an 8-4 victory to clinch the point.
“I just wish they’d let our No. 3 three team get a win,” Diaz said laughing. “We’re playing well at all three spots. That’s great.”
Wagland, the freshman from Australia who is ranked 33rd, made it 2-0 with a 6-3, 6-4 victory on court one against Spencer Wolf.
The Bulldogs had lost a set on three different courts but Smith, a freshman from Cumming, clinched with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win against Sidarth Balaji.
“Really proud of the way the guys are competing, especially the young guys, getting tremendous experience,” said Diaz, who got all six of his singles win from freshmen and sophomore the first two rounds.
Smith said the Bulldogs “are pretty much past” losing Singh. He said he was over it about 10 minutes after he got a text from Diaz with the news.
The goal remains to win it all.
“I have confidence that we can do that,” Smith said. “I know probably a lot of people probably don’t think we can, but that’s probably more fuel on the fire maybe to try even harder to get that, to win it all.”