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Women's Tennis Embarks on 17th Consecutive NCAA Tournament Bid

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Miljana Jocic2.jpegPlay begins today in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for Women's Tennis. Head Coach Arlo Elkins and the Gamecocks will take on Arizona in the first round of play. #2-overall seed Florida and South Carolina State round out the region. Of the 30 years the NCAA has held a championship tournament for Women's Tennis, South Carolina has received a bid 21 times, including the current impressive streak of 17 consecutive tournament berths, which is the 11th longest active streak in the country

"It's all a part of the process," Elkins said of the keys to the streak. "You have to have good recruiting, you have to have good players, and we have to develop them the best we can and we've been able to do that the past 17 years. We hope that we can establish to do better than just going to NCAA's every year. I think 15 of those 17 we have won first round or more but I think it's time we establish ourselves at a higher level than that and get into the final 16 as much as we can. But the NCAA Tournament is what we strive for every year."

The team's lone senior, Miljana Jocic (above left), has now been to the NCAA Tournament all four years at Carolina.

"It means a lot to me that the program is very good and we are all on the same page," said Jocic. "Everyone understands that we are not done when the conference tournament is done. We have to play very well the entire season to get to NCAA's because only the top teams get in. It is always our goal to do well in the NCAA Tournament. [In 2009] we made school history making it to the quarterfinals. Now when new freshmen come in we're trying to explain to them what a great experience it is. Your college career is only four years, you want to make it count, especially in the NCAA Tournament."

After the NCAA Tournament Jocic plans to take a break over the summer before returning to Columbia to complete an internship with the Sheraton Hotel to complete her degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management for graduation in December.

"I'm not going to play pro after this so it's crazy to me that this big chapter of my life is ending," said Jocic. "I've been playing tennis practically all my life, since I was seven, so [this year's NCAA Tournament] will be different."

Junior Anya Morgina was the only Gamecock to also receive a berth in the 64-person NCAA Singles Championship Tournament, to be played at Stanford after the completion of the team championship. She tied a school record for victories at No. 1 singles this season and was named All-SEC First Team.

"Making the NCAA Tournament has been the goal for the team and for myself throughout the season practicing and playing," said Morgina. "I'm trying to get in some extra work to get ready to play in the singles tournament as well as the team tournament. Hopefully this year will be even better than last year."

Even when you've made the Tournament for 17 straight years, it's still exciting every time.

"It's a sense of accomplishment," said Elkins. "It's what we strive for every year. We're looking forward to it. We gotta get by our first round and if we get by Arizona then we will most likely play Florida again. It would be the third time in three or four weeks that we've played them so we should know their games pretty well. If we play well we'll be able to hold our own with them."

"I'm excited because it's the biggest tournament of the year both for the team and for me individually in singles," said Morgina. "I'm also excited to go to San Francisco, I've never been there and I've always wanted to visit California."

Moving forward the Gamecocks hope to continue their string of success and the new tennis facility being built in the Athletics Village at the Roost will play a role.

"It will help recruiting. We have been by far one of the worst facilities in the SEC and in the country for a team that's done as well as we have. So first of all it will help recruiting when we get a better facility up to the standards of other SEC and national-level programs," explained Elkins. "I think it will also improve our fan base, which also helps recruiting. It's hard to park at our old courts and not very comfortable. Now we'll have a first-class facility not just for our players but for our fans and spectators as well."

Good luck to the ladies as they begin the NCAA Tournament today in Gainesville!

Go Gamecocks!

-Brittany
 

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