May 12, 2012
LOS ANGELES - No. 41 South Carolina dropped a 4-0 decision to No. 30 Texas A&M in the first round of NCAA Tournament action at Marks Stadium on the campus of Southern Cal. The Gamecocks (15-12) narrowly missed on the doubles point, and the veteran Aggies (14-14) took their advantage into singles early, jumping out to commanding leads in three of the six singles matches. South Carolina fought hard in the remaining three, and Chip Cox mounted a second-set rally, but it was not enough to hold off Texas A&M.
South Carolina got off to a good start in doubles with the Nos. 2 and 3 matches picking up breaks early in the set. The Gamecocks' No. 3 tandem of Kyle Koch and Carl Eguez kept it rolling by fighting off a pair of break points to go up 4-1. A second service break made it a 7-3 lead that Koch finished off by holding serve at love for an 8-3 outcome. Just after Ivan Machado and Thiago Pinheiro forced Texas A&M's Alexis Klegou and Colin Hoover to work hard for a hold at 3-3, the Aggie tandem used the momentum to score a break to go up 4-3. The No. 37 team in the country of Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow held onto its early service break against the Gamecocks' No. 23 duo of Cox and Nick Jones to score an 8-4 win, leaving the doubles point's outcome to the No. 2 matchup. With Pinheiro serving at deuce and trailing 3-5, South Carolina suffered a second service break, which the Aggies used to build strength and close out the match 8-3.
In singles, the Aggies opened with a pair of breaks early in the Nos. 5 and 6 matches and cruised to 6-1 wins in both first sets. The Gamecocks were holding strong on serve or up in three matches, while the No. 3 match saw Jones just down a break at 3-1. Pinheiro had the most control in his match, dominating Jeremy Efferding with breaks in two of his opponent's first three service games. Serving with a 5-2 lead, the Gamecocks' freshman sustained a charge from his counterpart but banged home some good serves to close out the set 6-2.
Just before Pinheiro closed out his first set, Jones had a series of break points to even his No. 3 match against Colin Hoover, but the Aggie senior survived the barrage and won the set 6-4. No. 122 Andrew Adams traded breaks with Junior Ore in the No. 2 match just as Machado fell behind No. 33 Alexis Klegou by a break at 4-5. While Machado, ranked No. 115 this week, dropped his first set 6-4, Adams kept the pressure on Ore to what would become a first-set tiebreak.
Meanwhile, Cox was battling back from his first-set setback in the No. 5 match, staying on serve with John Lewis. Hoover made it a 2-0 Aggie advantage with a 6-0 second set over Jones, and Koch was on the ropes against Withrow, trailing 1-4 in the No. 6 match. With Pinheiro up a break in the second set, and Adams continuing to fight off Ore, the Gamecocks needed Cox to push through to keep the match going and find some momentum.
The sophomore from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was up to the challenge, fending off Lewis to send the set to a tiebreak, just as Adams and Ore began their first-set tiebreak. Cox bombed an ace to open the tiebreak, which Lewis answered by winning both of his service points before going on to split Cox's next two serves for a 3-2 edge. The senior again claimed both of his points and split Cox's for a 6-3 lead, which he closed out with a backhand tucked just inside the line to win the set 7-6 (3).
Adams and Ore were locked in a battle in their tiebreak, splitting service points each time for a 5-4 Adams advantage. Ore won three of the last four points, however, to claim the hard-fought set 7-6 (5). On the other courts, Pinheiro and Machado were both on serve in their second sets, but Koch was in the final throws against Winthrow, forcing the Aggie freshman to serve for the match, which he did successfully for a 6-2 win to send Texas A&M into the second round.
The Gamecocks finished the season, their second under head coach Josh Goffi, with a 15-12 overall record, more than double their win total from his inaugural season. With two Gamecocks in the national singles rankings and a doubles team in the top 25, South Carolina is back in the national picture. This was the Gamecocks' first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009, and Goffi returns five of his top six singles players.
The lone departure from the regular lineup, Machado, closes his career among the program's best doubles players. He holds the school record for dual-match doubles matches played in a career at 97, and he is tied overall in doubles matches played with 128. His 63 doubles victories stands 11th in school history, and his 44 dual-match wins on the doubles court are the eighth-most all-time.
No. 30 Texas A&M 4, No. 41 South Carolina 0Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2)
1. (37) Junior Ore/Jackson Withrow (TAMU) def. (23) Chip Cox/Nick Jones (SC) 8-4
2. Alexis Klegou/Colin Hoover (TAMU) def. Ivan Machado/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 8-3
3. Kyle Koch/Carl Eguez (SC) def. Niall Angus/Jeremy Efferding (TAMU) 8-3
Singles (Order of Finish: 3, 5, 6)
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