April 10, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The 37th-ranked South Carolina women's tennis team (12-8, 4-6 SEC) dropped its second 4-3 decision in a row Sunday in Columbia, S.C., versus No. 6 Georgia (15-2, 9-1 SEC) in the final women's dual match at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center. The Gamecocks will begin playing in a new tennis stadium this fall beside the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center.
"They fought well and hopefully they learned a lesson," associate head coach Katarina Petrovic said. "We can beat anybody. They're as good as any team in the country."
Sunday's 5-hour-plus match began with South Carolina winning an incredible doubles point that took over two hours to decide. Georgia struck first on court two with Nadja Gilchrist and Lilly Kimbell defeating Dijana Stojic and Adriana Pereira 8-1.
The Gamecocks answered back with a big upset on court one. Anya Morgina and Dominika Kanakova trailed No. 9-ranked Chelsey Gullickson and Kate Fuller 5-3, but the Carolina duo charged back to take a 7-5 lead. Morgina had her serve broken to make it 7-6, but the Gamecocks broke back against Gullickson in the next game to win 8-6.
At three, South Carolina had a 6-5 lead and nearly went up 7-5 after earning a 40-15 advantage on Miljana Jocic's serve, but Georgia's Cameron Ellis and Alex Anghelescu fought back to take the game. The two teams continued trading games back and forth until reaching a tiebreaker. With the score tied 2-all in the breaker, Jocic and Katerina Popova won four points in a row before winning 7-3 to lift Carolina to a 1-0 lead heading to singles.
"That match was amazing," Jocic said. "First of all, I was a little bit nervous. It's my last match playing at home and I wanted to play well so much that I couldn't really focus on the game. But then, the crowd and all the people that were here and the support I had from the team and my coaches, that really pumped us up. We played our best tennis. It wouldn't be just enough to be fired up. We really had to make those shots in order to win."
The single contests were just as exciting with three matches going to a third set. Georgia won the first two matches to finish, first with Fuller defeating Jocic at No. 6 singles in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. Maho Kowase followed next with a 7-5, 6-4 decision over Stojic on court two to make it 2-1 for the Bulldogs.
Popova got the Gamecocks their second point when she held on to beat Anghelescu 6-3, 7-5 at No. 3 singles. The freshman from Russia fell behind 3-1 in the second set before coming back to take a 4-3 lead. At 5-all, Popova won the critical 11th game and then closed it out in the next game to improve to 18-8 this season. Popova is 6-3 in SEC matches and 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Morgina added South Carolina's third point with one of the top wins in school history at the No. 1 position. After dropping the first set to No. 25-ranked Gullickson, the defending NCAA singles champion, No. 39 Morgina fought back from a 4-2 deficit in the second to take the set 6-4 and force a third. In the third, Gullickson raced ahead 5-2, but Morgina kept her composure and ran off four straight games for a chance to serve out the match at 6-5. Gullickson broke back to force a tiebreaker, and Morgina held a 5-2 lead in the breaker before Gullickson won three straight rallies to make it 5-all. Morgina held on her second service to make it 6-5 and then early in the rally with Gullickson on the next point, Morgina hit a blistering off-backhand winner in the corner of the court to take the match 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).
Morgina's victory marked another impressive outing for her this spring. After beginning the year 0-4 at No. 1 singles, the junior from Russia now stands 13-7 overall and owns an 8-2 record in SEC matches at the top position. Her eight SEC wins at No. 1 singles ties the school record for most in a single season at the position, a feat first accomplished by Danielle Wiggins in 2004.
"I told Anya that I believe in her tennis probably more than she does," Petrovic said. "It's all about her attitude. I know she's an awesome player and when she fights and she thinks about exactly what she's supposed to do, the wins are coming. That was an unbelievable effort. My coaching for her today was, `I believe in you. You have to believe as much as I do.'"
The final two matches on court went to the Bulldogs. At five, Ellis held off a late charge from Pereira to win 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2. Pereira fell behind 4-1 in the second set before fighting her way into a tiebreaker to force a third set. On court four, Kimbell recovered from a 7-6 (7-3) loss in the first set to Kanakova to win 7-5, 6-2 in the ensuing two sets to hand South Carolina its fifth 4-3 loss in 2011.
The Gamecocks wrap up the regular season Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., when they face No. 2 Florida (21-1, 10-0 SEC) at 3 p.m.
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