Gamecocks Take on Ohio State at 2 p.m. Saturday in Durham, N.C.
Jan. 30, 2009
Weekly Notes in PDF Format
The 33rd-ranked Gamecock women's tennis team (3-1) will take on its second consecutive Big Ten opponent Saturday in the opening round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Durham, N.C., at 2 p.m. when it plays No. 32 Ohio State (2-1). The Buckeyes are coming off a Jan. 25 double header that saw them lose 6-1 to No. 17 Notre Dame and defeat Eastern Kentucky 7-0. A win would pit South Carolina against the winner of No. 35 VCU and No. 9 Duke on Sunday at 2 p.m. The losers of both matches will also play Sunday at 10 a.m. Duke (1-0) opened its season with a 7-0 sweep against Old Dominion on Jan. 23. VCU (4-1) fell by a 4-3 score to No. 11 Clemson in its last match.
South Carolina and Ohio State have an abbreviated history with the teams splitting the two all-time meetings. The last match-up was a 7-2 victory by South Carolina in March 1987. The Gamecocks and Blue Devils have met 15 times and Duke holds an 11-4 advantage and has won 11 of the past 12 over South Carolina. VCU is 2-1 versus South Carolina, but the Gamecocks earned the victory in the last match that came in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament in Athens, Ga., by a 4-3 margin.
Last Time Out
The Gamecocks suffered their first loss of the 2009 season Jan. 25 when they fell 4-3 to No. 19 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. South Carolina lost the top two doubles positions while claiming the third to fall behind 1-0. In singles, the first through third spots belonged to South Carolina while the bottom three went to the Wolverines. The match was ultimately decided at No. 6 singles between two freshmen. The Gamecocks' Ashley Miller dropped the first set to Michelle Sulahian 7-5 but led 5-4 in the second. Sulahian managed to hold serve in the 10th game after fighting off four set point opportunities for Miller. The two eventually found themselves in a tiebreaker that Hulahian managed to win 9-7.
Zubori Comes Close to School Record
Junior Ana Marija Zubori's outstanding fall season that saw her go 8-2 with four wins against players ranked in the top 50 of the fall preseason ITA rankings paid off with a No. 14 national singles ranking to begin the spring. Zubori's rating of 14th fell one short of tying the school record held by current assistant coach Katarina Petrovic (Markovski). Petrovic reached the top recorded ranking in school history of 13th on March 29, 2000. She went on to finish the year ranked No. 29. The highest final ranking in school history belongs to Laura Bernstein, who ended the 1982-83 campaign ranked 15th.
Career Win for Schofield
Senior Gira Schofield scored her first career victory against a top-10 opponent Jan. 21 when she defeated Furman's Laura Gioia 7-6, 6-1. Gioia came into the match ranked No. 9 in the country. Schofield's previous best win came her freshman year when she topped Robin Stephenson of Alabama who was 12th at the time.
Top Three Are Tops
The Gamecocks' top three singles players of senior Gira Schofield (1), junior Ana Marija Zubori (2) and senior Natasa Vuckovic (3) have been tough outs once again through the first four matches this season with a combined record of 11-1. The trio's combined record from 2007 to the present playing in the top half of the lineup stands at a stellar 93-37 (.715).
Zubori at her Best Against the Best
Junior Ana Marija Zubori has played outstanding tennis this season while taking on some of the best players in the country. At 12-2 overall, she owns an impressive record of 6-2 versus ranked players and only one of those opponents was ranked outside the top 50 at the time of the match. So far in 2008-09, Zubori has defeated players ranked 23rd, 36th, 37th, 40th, 42nd and 73rd. Each of her two losses came against players with a higher national ranking than her when they played.
Not a Typical Schedule
The Gamecocks schedule this season is somewhat different this season for several reasons. First, South Carolina is playing five matches in the month of January, the most it has ever played during coach Arlo Elkins' 26 years at the helm. Previously, the most an Elkins-coached team had played in January was four in 1990. After a hefty early season schedule, the Gamecocks face a light load in February. South Carolina has just three matches scheduled for February, the fewest under Elkins. The Gamecocks are hoping for more and they will get them if they can win the first two rounds of their region for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Durham, N.C., over Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Carolina takes on Ohio State the first day and a victory would pit it against either Duke or VCU for the right to compete among the final 16 in Madison, Wis., from Feb. 13-16. Lastly, opportunities to see the Gamecocks at home will be scarce this season. Just seven matches are on tap, the fewest Elkins has scheduled during his tenure as head coach. After the season opener with BYU on Jan. 16 and a Feb. 11 match-up with Winthrop, the Gamecocks do not return home for a match until March 13 against Tennessee.
Schofield's Streak in the Rankings Continues
Senior Gira Schofield starts the spring ranked No. 71, which continues her streak of appearing in every release of the ITA polls starting on March 6, 2007. She has now appeared in 19 consecutive releases of the ITA's national singles rankings. Schofield's career-high ranking is 23rd, which came last spring in March.
More Schofield Streaks
Senior Gira Schofield is currently riding a 10-match winning streak in singles dating back to the fall. After going 0-3 at her first fall tournament in Virginia in September, she has yet to lose. Schofield's 10 wins in a row is tops for her career and the Gamecocks' best since classmate Natasa Vuckovic ripped off 11 straight her sophomore season from Feb. 28 to April 1. Junior Ana Marija Zubori also won 10 consecutive matches spanning the fall of her freshman year through the first eight matches of the spring campaign.
SEC Preseason Coaches Poll
The Georgia Bulldogs were picked as the overall champion in the 2009 SEC Preseason Coaches Poll. Last season, the Bulldogs went 22-5 and reached the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships. They finished the year ranked No. 8 and won their second straight SEC Tournament title and fifth overall in school history. Georgia was also voted as Eastern Division champion, with Florida being voted second. Vanderbilt was voted third, with Tennessee in fourth, South Carolina in fifth and Kentucky in sixth. On the Western Division side, Arkansas was picked to dominate, with Auburn in the No. 2 spot. LSU came in third with Ole Miss in the fourth spot. Alabama and Mississippi State rounded out the list at fifth and sixth, respectively. The preseason poll is voted on by the SEC women's tennis coaches and is based on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 count. The complete tally for the poll is below.
1. Georgia 72
2. Florida 59
3. Vanderbilt 42
4. Tennessee 30
5. South Carolina 26
6. Kentucky 23
1. Arkansas 72
2. Auburn 54
3. LSU 50
4. Ole Miss 35
5. Alabama 28
6. Mississippi State 13
Overall Champion: Georgia (11), Arkansas (1)
Season Opener Streak
The Gamecocks extended their string of consecutive years winning the first match of the season to 12 years thanks to a 5-2 triumph over BYU on Jan. 16. The last time South Carolina lost a match to begin a season was 1997 when the Gamecocks suffered an 8-1 setback at Wake Forest.
Three-Match Skid to BYU Snapped
South Carolina snapped a three-match losing streak to BYU that began in 2003 by defeating the Cougars 5-2 to open the 2009 campaign. The Gamecocks and Cougars are now an even 9-9 against each other in the all-time series.
Schofield Cracks Top 10 on Career List
Senior Gira Schofield cracked the school's career top-10 list for combined singles and doubles victories following a weekend of play against Miami (Ohio) and Michigan. Schofield's career record of 140-98 gives her sole possession of 10th place and she is four away from tying Tobi Rakic for ninth.
Doubles Team Ranked
Junior Ana Marija Zubori and senior Natasa Vuckovic put together a 6-1 record during the fall and the end result was a No. 33 national ranking to start the spring. The ranking marks the highest of Vuckovic's career, surpassing the No. 37 rating she held with senior Gira Schofield heading into the fall 2006 season. Zubori's career high in doubles is ninth coming in January 2008 with Schofield.
Vuckovic Continues to Climb
Senior Natasa Vuckovic continues to climb the career charts at South Carolina. With an 83-36 career singles record, Vuckovic stands in sole possession of 10th place on the Gamecocks' all-time list. She needs four more to tie Tobi Rakic and Michelle Duda for eighth. Vuckovic's 65-52 record in doubles has her tied for eighth with senior Gira Schofield. With a 148-88 combined record, Vuckovic is tied for seventh with Sophie Ljucovic.
Schofield Eyes Fourth Straight NCAA
Senior Gira Schofield will be looking to make her fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Singles Championship, a feat that would make her the only player in school history with four appearances. In 2008, Schofield joined Michelle Duda, Heather Greene and current assistant coach Katarina Petrovic (Markovski) as the only players in school history with three showings. Schofield and Petrovic are the only players in South Carolina history to make the field as freshmen. Schofield lost in the first round her first two years but reached the second round in 2008, losing a three-set battle to Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. McDowell went on to win her next four matches in straight sets to claim the NCAA title.
Seniors Looks to Accomplish School First
Seniors Gira Schofield and Natasa Vuckovic are hoping to become the first players in the history of Gamecock women's tennis to earn All-SEC recognition in each of their four years with the program. As freshmen in 2006 and 2008, both received the nod for second-team all-conference. Schofield was named first-team All-SEC as a sophomore, while Vuckovic was on the second team. Heather Greene is the only other player at South Carolina to make the All-SEC Team three times during a career. Junior Ana Marija Zubori could join the short list of three-time honorees having been a second-team selection in each of her first two years.
A Program of Consistency
South Carolina extended its streak of consecutive NCAA appearances to 14 in 2008, which stands as the 11th-longest active streak in the country. During those 14 years, the Gamecocks have advanced beyond the first round 12 times and reached the round of 16 twice. Below is a look at the current streaks.
|Rank ||School ||Streak|
| 1.|| California|| 27|
| || Stanford|| 27|
| || UCLA ||27|
| 4.|| Texas ||26|
| 5.|| Florida ||22|
| ||Georgia|| 22|
| 7.|| Arizona State|| 21|
| || Pepperdine|| 21|
| 9.|| Duke ||19|
| 10.|| Southern California|| 17|
| 11.|| South Carolina|| 14|
| || Vanderbilt|| 14|
| || Tennessee|| 14|
Zubori Continues Assault on Records
Just a junior, Ana Marija Zubori is likely to leave her named etched all throughout the records book at South Carolina when her eligibility is complete. As a freshman, she won 31 singles matches to become the first player since Tracy Kotseos in 1994-95 to win at least 30 matches and it was the most wins by a Gamecock since Nathalie Rodriguez and Robin Deitch won 35 and 31 matches in 1989-90. Zubori entered her junior year with a 53-17 record in singles, putting her on pace to become just the fourth player in school history to eclipse the century mark. With a 94-43 combined record between singles and doubles, Zubori could make a run at Lynn-Yin Tan's record of 203 victories from 1998 to 2002. Zubori piled on 16 more victories during the fall to bring her career total to 110 entering the spring. She is currently 116-49 for her career.
Success Among the Best
Since first competing in the SEC in 1992, the Gamecocks have enjoyed consistent success in a league that is arguably the toughest in the nation. Over the past 17 seasons, the Gamecocks are one of five SEC schools to win 100 league matches, and their .545 (102-85) winning percentage ranks fifth in the conference. South Carolina has posted a winning league record in 10 of those 17 years. Below is a list of teams' SEC regular-season records since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1991-92. The list is sorted from best to worst winning percentage.
|Team ||W ||L ||Pct.|
|Florida|| 179|| 8|| .957|
|Georgia ||154|| 33|| .824|
|Vanderbilt|| 129|| 58|| .690|
|Tennessee|| 117|| 70|| .626|
|South Carolina|| 102|| 85|| .545|
|Ole Miss|| 96|| 91|| .513|
|Kentucky|| 92|| 95|| .492|
|LSU|| 69|| 118|| .369|
|Alabama|| 63|| 124|| .337|
|Auburn|| 50|| 137|| .267|
|Arkansas|| 45|| 142|| .241|
|Mississippi State|| 26|| 161|| .139|
South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins is looking to achieve another milestone this season by capturing his 400th career victory. Elkins entered 2009 with 383 to his credit and is now 14 away from reaching 400. The first coach in any sport at South Carolina to be named SEC Coach of the Year (1995), Elkins won his 100th match Jan. 20, 1990, against N.C. State. His 200th happened March 24, 1996, against Vanderbilt and No. 300 came Jan. 29, 2003, versus College of Charleston. During Elkins' tenure as head coach the Gamecocks have been to the NCAA Tournament 16 times including the past 14 and finished in the top 25 of the final team rankings 13 times.
The Gamecocks competed during the fall at Northwestern University's Wildcat Invitational and South Carolina rolled through one draw after another. On the first day of competition, the Gamecocks' three doubles teams all won two matches to reach the semifinals and all six players won their opening rounds of singles. Day two saw the three doubles teams all win to reach the finals in both draws, pitting one South Carolina duo against another in the final. In singles, the Gamecocks lost just one match to place four players in the finals of their draws, and senior Gira Schofield and junior Ana Marija Zubori had to play each other for the championship of the top flight. On the final day, the Gamecocks took both flights of doubles and Schofield topped Zubori for the A flight title. Over the three days, the Gamecocks were 11-1 in doubles with the one loss coming because Schofield/Jocic and Zubori/Vuckovic had to play each other in the final of the A draw. South Carolina was a combined 17-3 in singles contests to post a combined record of 28-4 at the tournament.
NCAA Individual History
South Carolina has placed either a singles competitor or doubles team in 21 of 27 NCAA Individual Championships. Laura Bernstein remains the only Gamecock to advance to the round of 16 in singles, doing so in 1983 in Albuquerque, N.M. In doubles, Helen Crook and Victoria Davies are the only USC duo to go as far as the semifinals, which happened in 1994 in Athens, Ga. In 2006, Gira Schofield became just the second USC freshman to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. If one were to count the individual and team tournaments, South Carolina has participated in at least one NCAA event every year since 1990, a streak of 19 appearances in a row.
The Mighty SEC
As is the case in most years, the Southeastern Conference looks strong from top to bottom once again. In the preseason spring rankings, seven teams are ranked in the top 25 and nine appear in the top 35. Georgia and Florida are listed at sixth and seventh, followed by Vanderbilt (12th), Arkansas (14th), Kentucky (22nd), Tennessee (23rd), LSU (24th), Auburn (26th), South Carolina (33rd), Ole Miss (53rd) and Mississippi State (74th). Only Alabama does not appear in the top 75.
Vuckovic Among Elite Company
Senior Natasa Vuckovic is among elite company at South Carolina having won at least 20 singles matches in her first three seasons. Only six other Gamecocks have accomplished the feat, the most recent being Jennifer Radman, Tamara Sutton and Lynn-Yin Tan. All three players won at least 20 per season four straight years from 1999 to 2002. Rita Winebarger also posted four consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins from 1985 to 1988, as did Carolina Culik from 1987 to 1990. Tobi Rakic fell two wins shy of making it four straight her senior year after reaching 20 wins in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Winebarger actually won over 30 matches in three of her four years, a large reason why she owns the school's all-time record for singles wins at 127. Vuckovic needs 11 more wins to crack 20 once again.
Count on Team Serbia
The Gamecocks often rely on two players for a win nearly every outing and for good reason. Junior Ana Marija Zubori (she claims citizenship with both Serbia and France but was born in Serbia) and senior Natasa Vuckovic are a combined 73-19 in dual singles matches from 2007 to the present. In 2007, Vuckovic was a stellar 19-3 and 9-1 in SEC matches. That same year, Zubori went 18-3 and 8-3 in the league. Naturally, the two shared team MVP honors. Last year, Vuckovic led the team with a 15-6 record and was 8-2 in the SEC, while Zubori went 14-6 and 7-3 in conference matches. Zubori is currently 4-0 this spring and Vuckovic is 3-1.
Playing the Best, Every Time
Senior Gira Schofield has had the somewhat unenviable task during her entire career of playing the No. 1 singles position every match. Playing the top slot means a player will always take on the other team's top player and will likely have a tough match almost every time out. Despite the challenge, Schofield has been a consistent winner for the Gamecocks year after year. Her career record at No. 1 singles stands at 40-25 and she is 16-16 in SEC matches. Last year, Schofield played a couple matches at the second position after coming back from a bad illness. It was the first time in her career she played any position except No. 1.
NCAA Team History
The Gamecocks have made a total of 18 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship appearances in the event's 27-year history. South Carolina owns an all-time record of 16-18 in the tournament. South Carolina's best showing came in the first championship in 1982 when it reached the quarterfinals after defeating Florida. South Carolina has made a total of five Sweet 16 appearances, with the last coming in 1999. The others were 1982, 1983, 1990 and 1995.
ITA Rankings Releases
Below is a list of dates when the Intercollegiate Tennis Association will release its rankings.
Jan. 6 Team/Singles/Doubles
Jan. 29 Team
Feb. 3 Team
Feb. 10 Team
Feb. 19 Team/Singles/Doubles
Feb. 24 Team
March 3 Team/Singles/Doubles
March 10 Team
March 17 Team/Singles/Doubles
March 24 Team
March 31 Team/Singles/Doubles
April 7 Team
April 14 Team/Singles/Doubles
April 21 Team/Singles/Doubles
April 28 Team/Singles/Doubles
May 22 Team (Final)
May 29 Singles/Doubles (Final)
NCAA Championship Format History
The NCAA first held a championship for women's tennis in 1982 in Salt Lake City. For the first six championships, the field consisted of just 16 teams and expanded to 20 starting in 1988. From 1988 to 1995, eight of the 20 teams selected played first-round matches and the other 12 received byes. From 1996 to 1998, the NCAA changed the format to include 58 teams, with 10 receiving automatic bids to the 16-team championship. The other six spots were determined through tournaments in six regions (East, Central, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, West) with eight schools in each. In 1999, the NCAA adopted what is still the current format of a 64-team bracket where each team must play every round. First- and second-round matches are played at 16 campus sites with four teams each, and the round of 16 and beyond is held at one institution. Starting in 2006, the NCAA combined the men's and women's round of 16 and beyond at the same location over the same time frame and included the individual championships there as well.
All-America teams are awarded in tennis for singles and doubles play. No voting takes place, so the teams are decided based on the following criteria:
1. Top 16 seed in NCAA Singles Tourney, or
2. Reach round of 16 in NCAA Singles Tourney, or
3. Finish in top 20 of final ITA rankings
1. Top eight seed in NCAA Doubles Tourney, or
2. Reach quarters of NCAA Doubles Tourney, or
3. Finish in top 10 of final ITA rankings
SEC Tournament History
The Gamecocks have advanced to at least the quarterfinals in 14 of the 17 SEC Tournaments in which they have participated. South Carolina has received a first-round bye four times (1996, 1999, 2002, 2007) and reached at least the semifinals on two of those occasions (1999, 2002). South Carolina's best showing was in 2002 when it hosted the tourney for the first and only time in school history and lost 4-0 to Florida in the championship. In the semis that year, the Gamecocks knocked off Georgia, the No. 1 team in the nation at the time of the match.
Two Countries Are Better Than One
While junior Ana Marija Zubori is listed on the Gamecocks' roster as being from Mulhouse, France, she is technically a citizen of Serbia as well. She was born in Novi Sad, Serbia, the hometown of teammate Natasa Vuckovic. Her parents sent her to live in France with her older sister in the '90s because of warring in the former Yugoslavia. Zubori's interesting background prompted her to be named one of Go Gamecocks the Magazine's 10 Most Intriguing People in USC Sports when The State newspaper publication hit the streets for its inaugural issue in summer 2008. Another member of the South Carolina squad also holds citizenship with two countries. Freshman Dijana Stojic is listed on the roster as being from Makarska, Croatia, but she also holds citizenship with Bosnia-Herzegovina. She was born in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and put together an impressive résumé play Fed Cup for the country in 2003 and from 2005 to 2007.
Live Scoring Available for Home Matches
Fans who cannot make it to see women's tennis matches in person can still follow the score online at the official Web site of the Gamecocks www.GamecocksOnline.com. The team score as well as up-to-date scores of individual matches can be found by going to the schedule page for the Gamecocks.
A Popular Gamecock
Junior Ana Marija Zubori is popular and has the proof. Last year, she was chosen as the AgSouth Female Athlete of the Year in an online fan poll at www.GamecocksOnline.com. During the season, a different student-athlete is selected each week as the AgSouth Athlete of the Week. Toward the end of the academic year, all the weekly winners are compiled and fans are given the opportunity to vote for a male and female athlete of the year. Winning the men's award last year was golfer George Bryan IV. Zubori and Bryan IV were honored at a South Carolina versus Florida baseball game for receiving the nod from the fans. Zubori will get the opportunity to win the award for a second time since she was named AgSouth Athlete of the Week after a strong performance at the Furman Fall Classic in September.