The Georgia women's tennis team plans to end the spring season right at home - the Bulldogs are hosting the NCAA championships.
The No. 4 team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings is starting the year in a pretty special spot, too - the Wailea Tennis Club, for a three-day round-robin of matches against Oklahoma State, Illinois and Hawaii Pacific that will get underway Thursday.
"The trip to Hawaii that our team wanted so badly the coaches pulled through with their promise," said the Bulldogs' Lauren Herring. "Then, to finish the year off in Athens, it will be a highlight of my tennis career, whenever I'm done."
Lauren Herring is No. 4 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles rankings, and her Georgia team is also ranked fourth.
UGA Sports Communications photo
Herring is fourth in the ITA singles rankings, and in the fall season went 10-3 and reached the semifinal round of the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships.
Georgia's Silvia Garcia is ranked 10th in the nation, and Lilly Kimbell is No. 33.
"Whenever we travel, we always travel as a team," Herring said. "Our coaches really emphasize the whole team. I try not to think of it as me out there competing. It's the University of Georgia."
Women's College Tennis At Wailea Tennis Club
8 a.m.-Georgia vs. Illinois, Oklahoma St. vs. HPU to follow
8 a.m.-Georgia vs. Oklahoma St., Illinois vs. HPU to follow
8 a.m.-Oklahoma St. vs. Illinois, Georgia vs. HPU to follow
Friday, Jan. 24
11 a.m.-Washington St. vs. HPU
Saturday, Jan. 25
11 a.m.-Washington St. vs. Hawaii
The Bulldogs were the Southeastern Conference runners-up last year, and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. They have not competed for their school since November's ITA National Indoor Championships.
"The trip encourages them to work hard over the holidays," said coach Jeff Wallace, in his 29th year with Georgia - his 607-150 record makes him the nation's winningest active women's tennis coach.
"This is a fun team to work with and be around," Wallace said. "I'm fired up about this year, great way to get this year started."
The teams will also conduct adult and junior clinics on Saturday.
Later this month, Washington State will play a pair of matches at Wailea - against HPU on Jan. 24, and against the University of Hawaii the next day.
Oklahoma State is No. 29 in the team rankings, and Illinois is 44th. HPU is ranked No. 4 in Division II after reaching last year's national semifinals.
"We're going to go out there and compete and not be intimidated for us, we have nothing to lose," said Celina Goetti, a captain for the Sea Warriors.
Goetti was born in Switzerland, attended high school in Australia while playing at a tennis academy and now when not in Hawaii spends a good deal of time in Singapore, where her family lives.
"I definitely see things quite differently sometimes," she said of the result of having various places to call home. "I definitely can use different techniques, I guess, when I talk to the team."
Goetti is the Sea Warriors' lone player to appear in the D-II rankings, at No. 34.
"The D-II rankings are done by people," said HPU coach Lauren Conching. "I try not to put too much of an emphasis on that, because people can be biased.
"We want that confirmation, yes, but in the past couple of years, have come to realize we might not get that recognition."
Conching can count on the Sea Warriors being held in regard on the court this week.
"Our coaches, it's something they always bring up before every match - we want to always do a very good job of respecting our opponents," Herring said.
* Brad Sherman is at firstname.lastname@example.org