Gamecocks Open Season Hosting Doubleheader Monday

Jan. 20, 2013


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The 31st-ranked South Carolina women's tennis team will open the 2013 season Monday hosting Winthrop at 10 a.m. at the USC Indoor Field House, followed by USC Upstate beginning at 3 p.m. It is the first double header played by the Gamecocks since opening the 2000 season at home against College of Charleston and Davidson on Feb. 5.

First-year South Carolina head coach Kevin Epley will look to extend the Gamecocks' perfect 9-0 record against the Eagles. Carolina has played Winthrop each season since 2004 and defeated the Eagles by a 6-1 score last year. South Carolina and USC Upstate have never met in women's tennis.

"Cid Carvalho has been (at Winthrop) for a little while, and he's a good coach and does a good job of recruiting internationally," Epley said. "They always have some talented young players. We're definitely going to have to come out ready to go. With any match, we have to take it very seriously. There are no guarantees and we have to prepare like we would for any match. I expect a good fight to start off the season."

Senior Jaklin Alawi begins the spring as the highest ranked Gamecock on the national scene with a No. 34 rating in singles. She also dons a No. 46 billing in doubles playing alongside junior Dominika Kanakova. Alawi posted a 9-7 record in the fall for singles play while going 11-6 in doubles to include a 9-5 slate with Kanakova. Her best tournament came at the ITA Carolina Regional when she advanced to the quarterfinals in singles and made the doubles final with Kanakova.

Junior Katerina Popova is South Carolina's other ranked singles player, coming in at a tie for 96th. Popova was 6-3 in singles matches in the fall playing a somewhat limited schedule due to injuries. The highlight of her fall was a quarterfinal appearance in the regional. She defeated then-No. 68 Esther Goldfeld of Duke in the round of 16, a player who is now ranked 40th to begin the spring.

Freshman Ximena Siles Luna posted the top singles mark of the fall for the Gamecocks and figures to be a factor in the lineup this spring. She compiled a 12-2 slate playing in four tournaments. She racked up a 5-1 record at the regional and ended the fall riding a seven-match unbeaten streak.

Seniors Josefin Andersson and Adriana Pereira, as well as sophomore newcomer Alex Martin will also look to compete in the lineup throughout the year. The lineup for Monday, though, is still up in the air and yet to be determined by Epley and assistant coach Georgia Rose.

"Georgia and I have been talking about that," Epley said. "We have a sense and have been throwing around some different ideas. Not all of our players are eligible to play right now and we have some injuries, so we're going to have to play it by ear day-by-day. But, we're confident we'll get it together by Monday."