Nathan Pasha is a junior from Atlanta on the men’s tennis team.
Well, our trip to the SEC Tournament did not go the way we expected.
We lost to the host team, Vanderbilt, 4-2 in the second round.
It seemed like everything went Vandy’s way on that particular day. The home crowd was extremely loud. All of Vandy’s players played very well, and looked to the crowd for energy and support almost every time they hit a good shot. I would have done the same thing if we were playing in Athens. The team was fighting to jump their ranking from No. 23 to anywhere inside the top-16, because the top 16 ranked teams host the first two rounds of NCAAs at home. They were fighting for their big, enthusiastic crowd, and they were fighting to do something they hadn’t done in 10 years, which was to beat Georgia. I think it’s safe to assume that Vanderbilt’s players and crowd had plenty of motivation to beat us, and they got it done.
Garrett [Brasseaux] and I were the first team to lose at No. 2 doubles, 8-3. Garrett and I simply didn’t play well enough to win. Our match got out of hand pretty quickly, and we lost before we knew it. Sometimes it’s hard to catch a match before it gets away from you in doubles because pro sets fly by so quickly. Eric [Diaz] and Austin [Smith] were next off the court with a pretty routine 8-5 victory. Those two have been playing very well together all year. I feel like we can count on for a win from them every time we walk into a dual match. Hernus [Pieters] and Ben [Wagland] lost the deciding doubles match, 8-7 (7-2). In the breaker, Vanderbilt’s No. 1 team raised their level of play, and our team had a couple of sloppy points early, which made it difficult for us to win. Every point is so critical in a tiebreaker because the getting to seven points doesn’t take long. Vanderbilt had a pretty big celebration after the winning the doubles point. After the clinch, Vandy’s players ran onto court one to hug each other, slap high fives, and fist pump towards the crowd. Watching their celebration lit a fire inside all of us, and we were motivated to quiet the crowd and Vanderbilt’s players in singles play.
We reached our goal early on in quieting Vandy’s crowd and their players by winning five out of six first sets in singles. I was the only one that didn’t win my first set, losing the tiebreaker, 7-6. Austin was the first to win his match 6-1, 7-5 to put our overall score at 1-1. Nick [Wood] was off the court second with a 7-6, 6-1 victory to give us a 2-1 lead. Then I lost 7-6, 7-6 to tie the overall score at 2-2. Hernus then lost in a tough, physical, three-setter, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, to give Vandy the lead at 3-2. Finally, Ben lost in a tough three-setter of his own, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, to give Vanderbilt the 4-2 win.
Although we fought hard as a team, we were unsatisfied with our level of play in that match. Despite falling short of our expectations at the SEC Tournament, we are using our bitterness and frustration from the Vandy loss to help us train for NCAAs, which will be here before we know it. We are lifting weights and doing strenuous running to get ourselves in the best shape possible. The week of NCAAs, we will taper our fitness and play more sets to prepare our minds for point play. The good news is that we have responded well to our losses throughout the season. After losing 4-0 to USC earlier in the year, we came very close to beating No. 2-ranked UCLA the next day, but lost 4-3. After losing to Texas A&M, we continued on to win the SEC regular season championship. And after losing to Vanderbilt in the conference tournament, we are preparing and expecting to go undefeated for the rest of this season. We can’t wait for NCAAs to arrive and to give you, the fans, something of your own to cheer about.
The Bulldogs open NCAA Tournament play on Sat., May 10 at 1 p.m. vs. Jacksonville State at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.