Gamecocks Narrowly Clipped by Tigers
April 1, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 40 South Carolina gave No. 15 Auburn everything it could handle in SEC men's tennis action Sunday afternoon, but the more experienced Tigers prevailed 4-3. The Gamecocks (14-8, 1-7 SEC) battled against match points on all three of the final matches on court before succumbing to the Tigers (15-6, 4-4 SEC) in three of the top four spots in the singles lineup. South Carolina swept the three doubles matches, but the veteran Auburn squad established its presence quickly in singles, which turned out to be just enough to hold off the charge of the youthful Gamecocks.
"We did a lot of really good things today, a lot of things we've been working on," South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. "The doubles today was probably our best as a whole all season. Our doubles is getting better in every match, which is exciting to see as we go down the home stretch of the SEC season. Winning that point gives us a chance against some of the top teams in the country, as today showed. We were right there against the No. 15 team in the nation, and that says a lot about how far we've come in a year and half. The improvement is a credit to our players who continue to believe that we are going to be a good program and a good team. As a coach, it's great to see that testament to how strong-willed our kids are."
The Gamecocks were off to a quick start in doubles with the No. 3 tandem of Kyle Koch and Carl Eguez showing their SEC dominance with an 8-5 win over Daniel Cochrane and Lukas Ollert to remain undefeated in five league dual matches. South Carolina was up a break in both the other matches on court, but both tandems saw their Auburn foes get back on serve in the 12th game of the match. On Court 2, Ivan Machado and Thiago Pinheiro got down early in the next game of their match with Dennis Lengsfield and Lucas Lopasso, but fought all the way back to get the break back. On Pinheiro's service game, Gamecocks' Brazilian duo clinched the point on Pinheiro's well-placed cross-court forehand after Machado's drop volley got the Auburn team out of position. The 8-6 win came just as the No. 1 match between ranked duos was heading into a tiebreak. South Carolina's 47th-ranked team of Nick Jones and Chip Cox forced the tiebreak behind solid serving from Cox that staved off an early break bid from the Tigers' 16th-ranked duo of Andreas Mies and Alex Stamchev. The tiebreak was back and forth early before a pair of service winners from Cox gave the Gamecocks a 5-2 advantage. Auburn claimed the next two points on Stamchev's serve. Jones smacked a series of shots from the baseline to set up a Cox overhead, which gave the duo match point. A booming serve from Jones closed out the upset win and completed the South Carolina doubles sweep.
The Tigers shed the sweep quickly when taking the court in singles, establishing early breaks in three of the six first sets. For the Gamecocks, only Koch was cruising as he put away Michael Wardell 6-0, 6-1 in the No. 6 matchup before four the matches were even out of the first set. The hard-hitting freshman closed out his first set just as three of his teammates got back on serve in theirs.
Auburn cut the Gamecock lead in half with a win in the No. 5 match as Lopasso held off a late charge from Cox to win 6-1, 6-4. While Andrew Adams appeared to have Daniel Cochrane under control in the No. 3 match, South Carolina needed a comeback from one of the other three matches on court, all of which were down a set. On Court 1, however, Machado appeared poised to make just such an effort as he established a 4-1 lead over No. 27 Mies in the second set. The Tigers' junior took advantage of sudden serving woes from Machado to get back on serve at 4-3, but Machado rebounded with an immediate break to go up 5-3.
On the next court in the No. 2 match, Jones was back on serve at 4-4 in his second set against No. 77 Stamchev when the Tiger senior's forehand sat up for an easy smash from Jones as he was charging the net. Neither of the Gamecocks' top two players were able to hold in their next service games, however, putting the Tigers back in the driver's seat.
Meanwhile, the No. 4 match became a display of heart and guts by Pinheiro, who was twice down on the court in the second set with a leg injury but got up to fight on against Lukas Ollert each time. Auburn's Stamchev leveled the match at 2-2 with a 6-, 6-4 win over Jones in the No. 2 match. But moments later, after Cochranehad held off a pair of match points on his serve, Adams put the Gamecocks up 3-2 with his 6-3, 6-2 win at the No. 3 spot, meaning the Tigers had to sweep the remaining two matches for the victory.
Mies broke Machado to win his third straight game and take a 6-5 lead into his final service game, while Ollert could not cash in on several match points as Pinheiro held his serve at 4-5. At the top of the order, Machado battled past match points as well, but Mies outlasted him to knot the match at 3-3 with his 6-3, 7-5 victory. Ollert was efficient in serving for the match, working Pinheiro back and forth across the court before closing him out 6-4, 6-4 to seal the team's victory.
South Carolina has three more SEC matches on the regular-season schedule and will play all three on the road, beginning with a trip to No. 27 LSU for a 3 p.m. match on Fri., April 6.
No. 15 Auburn 4, No. 40 South Carolina 3Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1)
1. (47) Chip Cox/Nick Jones (SC) def. (16) Andreas Mies/Alex Stamchev (AUB) 9-8 (4)
2. Ivan Machado/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Dennis Lengsfield/Lucas Lopasso (AUB) 8-6
3. Kyle Koch/Carl Eguez (SC) def. Daniel Cochrane/Lukas Ollert (AUB) 8-5
Singles (Order of Finish: 6, 5, 2, 3, 1, 4)