Jan. 24, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 40 South Carolina continues its spring season by traveling to Lexington, Ky., for ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 25-26. The Gamecocks will take on No. 17 Texas Friday at 5 p.m. before facing either No. 9 Kentucky or No. 47 Michigan State on Saturday.
The Gamecocks powered through their second doubleheader in as many weeks last Saturday, to improve to 4-0 on the season. South Carolina took on Furman in the first match of the day, finishing with a 6-1 victory, and then put on a dominant performance against Appalachian State, sweeping the Mountaineers 5-0. Ben Barnette and Thiago Pinheiro had a strong showing at No. 3 doubles, opening with a commanding 8-0 victory to give the Gamecocks their first point against the Paladins, and clinched the doubles point with an 8-2 victory against the Mountaineers. Senior Harry Menzies lost only four games across four sets in the doubleheader and, with partner Kyle Koch, helped secure the doubles point against Appalachian State.
Texas is 3-0, including two top 25 wins, to bump their ranking up to No. 17. The Longhorns opened with a 5-2 win over Southern Methodist, defeated then-No. 25 Washington 6-1 and capped that off with a 4-3 victory at then-No. 17 Tulsa. Texas finished last season with a 16-10 overall record and was 2-3 in the Big 12. The Longhorns return all 10 players from last season's team, including Sore Hess-Olesen and Daniel Whitehead, who are ranked No. 31 and 43, respectively, and have added two freshmen to their roster, including Nick Nauman who is ranked No. 98. The Longhorns also have three doubles teams ranked in the top 100, led by Chris Camillone and David Holiner at No. 13.
"Texas just had two top-25 wins, and they're now No. 17 in the country. It's a great opportunity for us because they're a young team, like us. We're looking forward to it. It's a great mirror. They're supposed to be better than us on paper, but if we can go out there and honestly make it a fight and get into the match, I think we can come out on top," said South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi.
Kentucky started off the spring 3-0 after sweeping both Northern Kentucky and Morehead State 7-0 in a doubleheader and then defeating Indiana 5-2. The Wildcats finished last season with a 28-6-1 overall record and were 11-0 in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats return eight players from last season's SEC championship team and add four freshmen to their roster, which includes three players ranked in the top 100, led by Tom Jomby at No. 15. Jomby and freshman Kevin Lai also team up as the No. 35 doubles team. Not returning this season is Eric Quigley who appeared in the NCAA singles final and was named SEC Player of the Year.
"Kentucky is always good. They lost their top two, though, which were big-time points for them last year. Those guys rarely lost at the top of the lineup. They were leaders, and they lost them. It's going to be interesting to see what kind of Kentucky team they have this year. Cedric [Kauffmann], their coach, does a really good job with them. They're going to be good," Goffi said.
Michigan State is off to a 3-1 start after sweeping its season-opening doubleheader, defeating Wright State and Detroit 4-3 and 7-0, respectively. The Spartans then traveled to Memphis, Tenn., where they fell to Memphis 6-1 before picking up a 6-1 win at Vanderbilt. Last season the Spartans went 18-11 overall and 7-6 in the Big Ten, they return nine players and have added three freshmen to their roster.
"Michigan State just beat Vanderbilt, and that's a heck of a win for them. They have a great new assistant coach, and their head coach Gene [Orlando], does a very good job as well. Those guys are ready to play, and they're fired up. They believe they can beat the SEC teams now. They're ready to play, and it won't be an easy match if we play them," Goffi said.
The Gamecocks will be back in action in Columbia on Sat., Feb. 2, for another doubleheader. They will face off against No. 59 Georgia Tech and Wofford. Both matches will be played at the USC Field House, which is located at the corner of Whaley and South Marion Streets. Admission to all matches is free.
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