Schnugg helps Georgia to second straight title

Nate Schnugg's storybook career at the University of Georgia continued with his second consecutive team national championship on Tuesday evening at the University of Tulsa's Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

The Bulldogs' sophomore, and former North Medford standout, was named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player after winning in straight sets at No. 2 singles and helping Georgia to its sixth men's tennis national championship.

With Georgia trailing 2-0, the 17th-ranked Schnugg put the Bulldogs on the board with a 6-4, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles over 41st-ranked Kellen Damico — Schnugg's close friend and former Medford resident.

Senior co-captain and 4th-ranked Travis Helgeson later clinched the 4-2 win for Georgia with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over 10th-ranked Dimitar Kurtovsky.

"Oh my God," Schnugg said Tuesday, shortly after Georgia's win. "We fought through so much adversity all year and came through. We have such a special group of guys. I'm proud of my team and what we accomplished."

Schnugg improved to 9-0 in NCAA Tournament play. He was an all-Southeast Conference selection as a freshman last season, going 26-2 in singles and 27-4 in doubles on a team that went 32-0 and was considered among the greatest in NCAA history.

This season Georgia (27-5) suffered multiple injuries but Schnugg proved to be a consistent force, finishing with a 43-8 overall record and a 24-10 overall record in doubles with teammate Jamie Hunt.

"It's a completely different feeling," Schnugg said of the two national titles. "Last year we were the most dominate team in college history. This year, we had so much adversity. It made it all that much sweeter.

"Last year at this time when we won it and tonight (Tuesday) were two of the best moments of my life."

There won't be much time to celebrate for Schnugg. He'll compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships today, taking on Illinois' Ruben Gonzales in the singles round of 64 at 1:30 p.m. He and Hunt will face Luke and Clancy Shields of Boise State in the doubles round of 32 on Thursday.

"It's always hard to bounce back but you've gotta do what you've gotta do," Schnugg said of playing in another tournament less than 24 hours after wrapping up the team title. "We just played four tough, tough matches. It's hard to want to get out on the court after winning the team title, which is the most important for me.

"I don't have any expectations. For the last nine months, I've been focusing on the team tournament. That was far and above the first thing on my mind. Now that it's over, I can start looking forward to the singles tournament and see how I do. I'm going to play my best and see what happens."

Schnugg could meet Damico again should both advance to the round of 16. Damico lived in Medford until the age of 10 and he and Schnugg were doubles partners in the junior ranks. The duo won the Wimbledon Junior Doubles Championship and took second at the Australian Open Junior Doubles in 2006.

"It was tough," Schnugg said of facing Damico on Tuesday. "We put it behind us. We're still just as close friends as we were before."

Following the singles and doubles tournament, Schnugg said he intends to take the fall season off and play in low-level professional tournaments, hoping to earn a higher ranking.

He'll return to Georgia for the spring season and attempt another title defense.

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail

Share This Story