Women's tennis team makes Sweet 16 return

The University of North Georgia (UNG) women's tennis team is headed back to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16.
Clark Leonard | Mon May 20, 2019

The University of North Georgia (UNG) women's tennis team is headed back to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16.

For the second straight year, a second-round victory against Wingate on the Bulldogs' home courts propelled the Nighthawks into the NCAA Division II Championship. Next up, UNG faces Queens (New York) College, which has a 14-3 record, at noon May 22 in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The Nighthawks, with a 21-5 record, are the No. 6 seed in the reseeded 16-team bracket.

The NCAA Division II Championship runs May 22-25, with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals set for 9 a.m. May 23, 24 and 25, respectively.

UNG head coach Kent Norsworthy said his team's preseason goal was to make it back to this point and see if it could add another win or two.

"We've been there before, so it's not going to be a shock. They won't be happy just to be there," Norsworthy said. "They want to do a little bit better."

UNG, seeded No. 4 in the Southeast Regional and ranked 12th nationally, rallied for a 4-3 win May 14 against top-seeded Wingate, ranked 10th nationally, behind singles wins from Adrienne Bofinger and Holly Bennett.

Earlier in the match, Vaishali Jorge earned a singles triumph and UNG secured the doubles point with wins by the Bofinger-Lexa Loden and Bennett-Jorge pairs.

UNG opened NCAA tournament play with a 4-2 victory against Queens University of Charlotte on May 13, a reversal from a 5-2 loss when the teams matched up March 24 in Dahlonega, Georgia.

Bennett, a senior from Kingston near Lewes, England, said a 6-1 road win against No. 9 Florida Southern on March 13, the program's first against a top-10 opponent, was a pivotal moment.

"We realized how good our team could be," Bennett said.

Bennett was named the Southeast Region Most Improved Senior in 2019 ITA Division II women's tennis awards announced May 15. Assistant coach Marcy Huck was named Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year.

Norsworthy said his team's three seniors set the standard this year.

"When you hold each other accountable, that makes the biggest difference," Norsworthy said. "Our three seniors, I give them a lot of the credit for where we are."

Loden, a senior from St. Marys, Georgia, said the Nighthawks' success is built on a bond formed at practices and off the court.

"It's a trust when you go out on the court that the team is going to have your back," Loden said. "Everyone shows up and does their part."

In 2018, UNG made its first Sweet 16 trip behind a 5-2 win at Wingate.

2019 marks the UNG women's tennis team's third straight NCAA tournament appearance, accounting for all three of its postseason trips in Division II.

"Every year we've gotten better," Bennett said. "Every year we've made more history."