Gamecocks Head to the Commonwealth for a Pair
Feb. 15, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The No. 30-ranked South Carolina women's tennis team heads to the Commonwealth this weekend to face No. 49 VCU on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Richmond, Va., and No. 47 William & Mary on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Williamsburg, Va.
South Carolina (3-2) is looking to bounce back from a 6-1 loss at No. 20 Clemson a couple weeks ago and end a two-match losing streak that began with No. 13 Michigan in the second round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The Gamecocks began the season with three straight wins over Winthrop, USC Upstate and No. 53 Missouri. Carolina has two players among the national singles rankings with Jaklin Alawi at No. 59 and Katerina Popova at No. 114. Alawi also holds a No. 57 billing in doubles with Dominika Kanakova thanks to a 4-1 record thus far at the top doubles position in dual matches.
VCU (7-2) opened the season on a five-match winning streak before taking losses to North Carolina, now the No. 1 team in the nation following its title run at the ITA National Team Indoors, and No. 16 Virginia. The Rams are coming off a 4-3 victory against Wake Forest after defeating Winthrop 6-1. VCU does not have any players currently ranked in singles or doubles.
William & Mary (6-2) has won two straight 4-3 decisions coming against UNC Wilmington and Virginia Tech. The Tribe scored a 4-3 win earlier in the year as well against then-No. 19 Ole Miss. William & Mary has losses this year to No. 4 Duke and No. 42 Kansas State. While the Tribe does not boast any nationally ranked singles players, it does have the nation's No. 4-ranked doubles team of Maria Belaya and Jeltje Loomans.
Current Gamecock and first-year head coach Kevin Epley has plenty of experience with William & Mary having served as the Tribe's head coach for five seasons from 2004 to 2008. Epley compiled a 96-40 (.706) record in Williamsburg and led the Tribe to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament each season, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2007. South Carolina owns a 4-3 record against William & Mary all-time and defeated the Tribe 4-1 last season in the first round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Atlanta.
The Gamecocks last played VCU in 2009 in a consolation match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend that South Carolina won 4-3 in Durham, N.C. Carolina also defeated the Rams the year before in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Athens, Ga., in an exciting 4-3 thriller clinched by Gira Schofield at No. 1 singles. Schofield fought off multiple match points in a third set tiebreaker to catapult the Gamecocks into the second round. The overall series between South Carolina and VCU stands at 2-2.
Epley has plenty of experience going against VCU and longtime head coach Paul Kostin since both teams competed in the Colonial Athletic Association during Epley's time in Williamsburg (VCU is now a member of the Atlantic 10). He faced off against the Rams 10 times during his five-year tenure with the Tribe and compiled an 8-2 record against them. Epley's William & Mary teams won the CAA Tournament four times in his five years, playing and beating the Rams every year in the finals except 2006.
After its stay in Virginia, South Carolina will take on Furman on Feb. 20 in Greenville, S.C., before returning home to host a doubleheader against College of Charleston and Charleston Southern on Feb. 23.