South Carolina Opens SEC Play at No. 6 Texas A&M on Friday

Feb. 28, 2013


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The No. 43 South Carolina women's tennis team hits the road to open SEC play, taking on No. 6 Texas A&M on Friday in College Station, Texas, at 6 p.m. ET and then No. 71 Missouri on Sunday in Columbia, Mo., at 11 a.m. ET.

The Gamecocks (7-3) wrapped up non-conference play last week with a doubleheader on Saturday against College of Charleston and Charleston Southern, beating both teams by 5-0 scores. South Carolina had no problem winning the doubles point in both contests and then coasted to wins at the Nos. 1-4 positions in singles. Junior Dominika Kanakova provided the winning point in singles for the CofC match-up with a win on court four and senior Jaklin Alawi clinched the second match versus Charleston Southern at No. 1 singles.

Alawi continues to hold a No. 69 national singles ranking. She and Kanakova have held rankings in doubles this spring and are 7-2 together playing the top position. Junior Katerina Popova moved up six spots in singles to No. 108 this week and she owns the team's best dual record with a 7-1 mark on court two. She and senior Josefin Andersson form the Gamecocks' No. 2 doubles team that has gone a team-best 8-1 through the first 10 matches this year. South Carolina will also look for continued strong play from spring newcomer Elixane Lechemia, who is 3-0 playing No. 3 singles since entering the lineup last week against Furman. She has played doubles with freshman Ximena Siles Luna on court three since becoming eligible.

Texas A&M (6-1) enters the week with its highest ranking in school history at No. 6, surpassing its previous high of No. 9 on March 28, 2001. The Aggies were 5-1 following three consecutive victories against top-15 opponents and they just defeated No. 24 Baylor on Wednesday. Texas A&M's only loss on the year was to No. 1 North Carolina at the ITA National Team Indoors. Senior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, like her team, holds a national singles ranking of sixth. Classmate Nazari Urbina is next in the rankings at No. 67 and junior Cristina Stancu rounds out the list of ranked Aggies at No. 83. Stancu and freshman Stefania Hristov are ranked No. 11 in doubles.

Mizzou improved to 6-1 on the spring season when it picked up 7-0 sweeps over UMKC on Feb. 20 and Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 23. Junior Cierra Gaytan-Leach, ranked 107th in the nation, improved her spring record to 9-0, including a 7-0 mark in dual matches at No. 1 singles. Senior Maria Christensen also boasts a 7-0 dual match record and is 8-1 on the spring.

South Carolina and Texas A&M have not played since 1995 in a series the Gamecocks lead 7-1. The two schools played each other every year from 1988 to 1995. The Gamecocks took on Mizzou for the first time ever a little more than a month ago at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich. Andersson clinched the Gamecocks' 4-3 victory in that match-up.