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Georgia won its fourth National Team Indoor Championship, and first since 2002, in a dramatic 4-3 thriller over defending champion and No. 2 seed North Carolina. The Bulldogs found themselves in a 1-0 hole for the third straight match after the Tar Heels cruised to a 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-2 win at No. 2. The teams split opening sets in singles but only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets and both of those went to the team in Red and Black. 

Georgia junior Elena Christofi put the Dawgs on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles and freshman Meg Kowalski ran her collegiate record to 11-0 with a 6-2, 7-6(3) win at No. 6. North Carolina junior Alexa Graham evened the match at 2-2 with a 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 win at No. 3 but Georgia would retake the lead with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win by sophomore Vivian Wolff at No. 4. 

Georgia junior Marta Gonzalez was on the verge of clinching the championship after taking a 5-1 lead in the third set against Sara Daavettila at No. 2 but the Tar Heel junior wouldn’t go away. Daavettila held from 40/15 to make it 5-2 and then she broke from 15/40 to make it 5-3. After going up 40/0, Daavettila fought off a match point to hold on the no-ad point for 5-4. Daavettila broke Gonzalez from 30/40 to even it at 5-5 but Gonzalez broke back on the no-ad point to go up 6-5. Daavettila broke at love to send the match to a tiebreak. Gonzalez won the opening point on Daavettila’s serve but Daavettila took the next four and ended up pulling away for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3) win. 

The final match left on court was at No. 1 between North Carolina junior Makenna Jones and Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic. As the match at No. 2 finished, the score was even at 5-5 in the third however minutes earlier Jones had led 5-2. During the changeover at 5-2 Jokic took a medical timeout and then she followed that up by taking the next four games to go up 6-5. Jones would break Jokic at love to send the match to a tiebreak however the tiebreak was all Jokic as she took it 7-2 to give Georgia the win. 

“It is exciting,” Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. “I’m really proud of this team, the coaches, and the support staff that was here. It was a total team effort, which makes it really special. Drake [Bernstein Associate Head Coach] and I spent a lot of time talking to the team about the importance of supporting each other and being a true team and then to see them pull together like they have and lift each other up in tough situations and comeback in these tough matches that we are able to get in close fashion really, really says a lot.”

“We have some work to do in doubles no doubt,” Wallace added. “But our singles is just a bunch of fighters. It is all about next point and playing forward. It is just some great tennis if you let things go and realize your team needs you, your university needs you. That was what our theme was when we talked prior to the match. Winning championships is fun and you want to do it together, but at the same time it is bigger than us, it is for the University of Georgia. I thought they really bought in and competed the way you want them to compete.”

On the finish
“It looked like Marta [Gonzalez] was going to get it done. She even had team match point, and Kat [Jokic] wasn’t playing at the level that she is accustomed to like yesterday and earlier in the match. She [Jokic] got down 2-5, and suddenly Marta doesn’t close it out and gets beat in the tiebreaker. Then Kat got that look in her eye and I know that look. When she gets that look, it is ‘Wow’. She started playing some tennis at a whole new level and ended up taking that tiebreaker decisively. I’m excited for her and the whole group. She [Jokic] went undefeated the whole week and so did Meg [Kowalski]. It was a complete team effort with different matches at different times. Elena [Christofi] stepped it up today and had a great win, but also she came back from 5-0 to keep the championship alive against Vanderbilt. It is just really exciting. Vivian [Wolff] played some high level tennis today and yesterday. Lourdes [Carle] against Vandy was the clinch match, so we needed it from everybody this past week.”

On the team
“I’m super, super proud of our team in what they were able to accomplish. The season is early and young and there is a lot of work to be done, but we are looking forward to enjoying this one for sure.”

#5 Georgia 4, #2 North Carolina 3
Feb. 12, 2019 at Seattle, Wash (Nordstrom Tennis Center)
Singles (Order of Finish: 5, 6, 3, 4, 2, 1)
1. #2 Katarina Jokic (UGA) def. #6 Makenna Jones (UNC) 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (2)
2. #15 Sara Daavettila (UNC) def. #10 Marta Gonzalez (UGA) 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3)
3. #7 Alexa Graham (UNC) def. #102 Lourdes Carle (UGA) 6-0, 5-7, 6-2
4. #58 Vivian Wolff (UGA) def. #20 Cameron Morra (UNC) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
5. Elena Christofi (UGA) def. #104 Alle Sanford (UNC) 6-2, 6-2
6. #84 Meg Kowalski (UGA) def. Jessie Aney (UNC) 6-2, 7-6 (3)
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2)
1. Aney/Graham (UNC) def. Carle/Wolff (UGA) 6-1
2. #5 Jones/Morra (UNC) def. Christofi/Coppoc (UGA) 6-2
3. Goulak/Gonzalez (UGA) def. Daavettila/Sanford (UNC) 6-1
Match Notes
Georgia 7-0; National Ranking #5
North Carolina 9-1; National Ranking #2
ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship Finals


***All quotes are from the respective school’s recaps