Gamecocks Claim Doubles Crown On Final Day at USC Fall Invitational|
Oct. 16, 2005
Columbia, S.C. - South Carolina's Jaime Cuellar and Geraldo Knorr claimed the 2005 USC Fall Invitational doubles championship, and improved to 8-0 as a duo with an 8-3 win over second-seeded Jose Crosa and Oscar Posada of East Tennessee State in the top flight final on Sunday afternoon in Columbia. USC's senior captain Tom Eklund also took home runner-up honors in the top singles flight on the final day of the tournament.
The day began with USC's Eklund and Cuellar facing each other in a top flight singles semifinal. The semifinal matched up not only teammates, but also Carolina's top two singles winners from a year ago.
Eklund used his serve and volley placement against his teammate in the first set, winning 6-1, but would not have it as easy in set number two. Cuellar, who led the team in singles wins with 28 in 2004-05, came out hard in the second set and kept the match on serve until 5-5. With break point in the 11th game, Cuellar forced Eklund's backhand into the net to go up 6-5 and serve for the set. However, Eklund would not go down without a fight and the Swede hustled to the net on Cuellar's drop shot and hit a return just inside the left service box to tie the set at six games apiece and force a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Eklund would win four of the first five points, and then with match point push a forehand winner just out of Cuellar's reach in the back corner of the left service box.
In the A-1 singles final, Eklund faced Arkansas freshman Blake Strode on court three. Strode came into the match having upset second seed Posada (ETSU) in the second round, USC's Knorr in the quarterfinals, and then third seed Brandon Wai of Yale in the morning semifinal. Eklund's fourth match in two days would prove too much for the Carolina senior though; as Strode claimed his first career collegiate title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Eklund.
However, the picture back on court one would be much better looking for the Gamecocks, as Cuellar and Knorr broke the Buccaneer duo's serve in the opening game of the doubles final, and lost just two more games the rest of the way to earn their first title as a duo. The pair lost just eight games on their way to the 2005 USC Fall Invitational crown, and are now 3-0 in 2005 after going 5-0 as a pair a year ago.
The Gamecocks will return to action next weekend when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the ITA Indoor Mideast Regionals on the campus of the University of North Carolina. The tournament, which runs October 20-23, determines qualifiers for the ITA National Indoor Championships, held in December at Ohio State University.