March 30, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 40 South Carolina used steady play across the board to earn its first SEC win of the season, topping No. 66 Alabama 4-3 Friday night at Carolina Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (14-7, 1-6 SEC) fought back to win the doubles point and shook off a sluggish singles start to come out on top. Kyle Koch and Carl Eguez delivered the doubles point with a service break in the final game of the No. 3 match. Fellow freshman Andrew Adams delivered the team victory with a win in the No. 3 singles contest after sophomores Nick Jones and Chip Cox avenged their doubles loss with singles victories.
"The team and the crowd did an amazing job of keeping the energy up, and that helped our players really came together to get past some recent disappointments to earn this win," South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. "Our doubles teams were tight-knit and it showed in our results. The teams are getting better match-by-match, which is great to see. The No. 3 team continues to be solid, undefeated in SEC play, and when the top two teams can rely on them to deliver in every match, it takes the pressure off them at the top of the lineup. We got down a little bit in singles, but the guys did what we asked, believed that if they sustained their energy level past the first few games they would be successful. Chip has been practicing really hard, and it was great to see him get his first SEC win. I'm extremely happy for Nick with his first SEC win, too. It's so hard to play in the top two spots, and he beat a very good player today handily. Then, as always, Andrew puts it all on the court and comes through. When the team is up 3-2 and Andrew was up a set and a break, I was confident he would come through. The way he gets stronger as the match goes on, as a coach, there's no one else I'd rather have in that position to clinch a match."
Doubles play was nip and tuck on all three courts with each break or hold matched by the other team right away. The Gamecocks were the first to surge ahead as Ivan Machado and Thiago Pinheiro had the first sustained lead of the match, going up 5-2 in the No. 2 contest. Carrying that lead to 6-4, though, the Brazilian duo saw its opponent get back on serve at 6-5. A double fault on break point put the Gamecocks back on top just as the No. 1 match was heading to a tiebreaker. Serving for the match, Pinheiro delivered a big serve that yielded a long return to close out the 8-5 victory. On Court 3, Koch and Eguez traded breaks with the Tide's David Vieyra and Michael Thompson in the match's first two games, and neither team could establish another advantage. When the No. 1 match went to Alabama in a tiebreaker, it appeared the final match would be decided in the same way. Eguez held serve to go up 8-7, but the Crimson Tide could not do the same as the Gamecock freshmen battled out a break for a 9-7 win and a 1-0 team advantage.
The Crimson Tide got off to a quick start in singles, but the Gamecocks rallied back to win three of the six first sets. Jones was the first to shake off the slow start, winning four straight games after a service break had him trailing Jarryd Botha 0-2 early in the No. 2 match. Botha's play was steady, but Jones closed out the set 6-4 and carried that momentum into the second. He dominated the entire set, closing it with a service break, winning every point of the game, including the final one in which a series of slice backhands brought Botha to the net for a cross-court backhand pass. Jones' 6-1 second set put South Carolina up 2-0.
Jones' doubles partner, Cox, was the next to break through in the No. 5 match. Like Jones, Cox fell behind his opponent, David Vierya, early, trailing 0-3 before finding his rhythm. The sophomore ground down Vierya to win the next six games, including a service break to win the set. As the Crimson Tide was adding first-set victories to its side of the ledger around him, Cox stayed the course on Court 5. He responded immediately to a service break that had him down 0-2 to win he next five games, surging ahead 5-2. Vierya won his next service game, but Cox had the match on his racquet and was his usual steady presence from the baseline until Vierya's forehand error delivered the set 6-3 for a 3-0 Gamecock lead.
In the No. 3 match, Adams was playing his typical workmanlike match, winning his first set just as Jones and Cox were wrapping up their victories. After nearly breaking through on Adams' serve in the fifth game of the set, Vikram Reddy pushed through two games later to take a 4-3 lead. The Gamecocks' leader in victories broke right back in the next game. The two baseliners stayed on serve late in the set with Adams leading 6-5. Reddy was down Love-40 in the next game, but fought off the series of match points to get back to deuce. Adams was undeterred by the comeback and closed out the set 7-5.
Trailing 3-0, Alabama was making its move in the Nos. 1 and 4 matches. Ricky Doverspike scored a pair of late service breaks to win his first set 6-2 against Machado at the top of the order. The Gamecock senior struggled early in the second set, and Doverspike held on for a 6-3 win to get the Crimson Tide on the board. Moments later, Daniil Proskura made it a 3-2 match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Pinheiro in the No. 4 match. Back on Court 3, Adams was cruising early in his second set turning a 1-1 score quickly into a 6-1 victory by steadily feeding Reddy groundstrokes until the Alabama senior committed errors. The win clinched the team victory for the Gamecocks.
"The first set was all heart for Andrew," South Carolina assistant coach Matt Lucas said. "He wasn't playing his best tennis, but he got the win. In the second set, he really stepped up his game and didn't let his opponent breathe. On the next court, Chip Cox really had a great day, too, in doubles and singles. It was good to see him back on the winning track, which should give him confidence for the rest of the season."
In the final match, Koch rallied back from losing his first set to win the second, sending the match into a super-tiebreak. The freshman jumped out to an early lead over Michael Thompson, but saw the Crimson Tide's No. 6 competitor rally back to even things at 8-8. The two traded the next six points before Thompson finally put together back-to-back points to win the match 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (11).
South Carolina is back in action on Sunday, playing its final home match of the season. Just prior to their 1 p.m. start against No. 15 Auburn, the Gamecocks will honor their seniors, Machado and Henry Walker.
No. 40 South Carolina 4, No. 66 Alabama 3Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3)
1. Ricky Doverspike/Jarryd Botha (AL) def. (47) Chip Cox/Nick Jones (SC) 9-8 (3)
2. Ivan Machado/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Vikram Reddy/Carlos Taborga (AL) 8-5
3. Kyle Koch/Carl Eguez (SC) def. David Vieyra/Michael Thompson (AL) 9-7
Singles (Order of Finish: 2, 5, 4, 1, 3, 6)
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