Women's Tennis Hosts Tough Eastern Division Matches
March 14, 2013
Carolina (8-5, 1-2 SEC) is looking to bounce back from a 7-0 loss at fourth-ranked Florida on Saturday. The Gamecocks captured the No. 1 doubles match in Gainesville, Fla., but came away empty handed after losing the other two courts. Elixane Lechemia went three sets in her singles contest with Alexandra Cercone, but she fell in a super tiebreaker. South Carolina lost in straight sets in the other five singles matches. Katerina Popova saw her seven-match winning streak snapped after playing the No. 1 singles position for the first time in her career against top-ranked Lauren Embree. Popova still has the team's best dual match record at 9-2 and she is 15-5 for the entire season. She moved up six spots in this week's national singles rankings to No. 102.
Doubles has proven to be strength for the Gamecocks this season, as they have lost the point only three times in their 13 matches. Jaklin Alawi and Dominika Kanakova own a 9-2 record on court one and are 2-0 in SEC play, including an 8-1 win at Florida last weekend. They own an 18-7 mark together this season. At No. 2 doubles, Popova and Josefin Andersson have proved to be a tough out as well with a 9-2 record in duals. Overall, they are 13-7 as a pair. The Gamecocks also have a developing tandem on court three thanks to the addition of Lechemia in late February. She has teamed with Ximena Siles Luna and they are 3-2 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Tennessee (4-5, 2-1 SEC) wrapped up a five-match home stand with a pair of wins over Mississippi State and Ole Miss last weekend. The Lady Vols started the weekend with a 7-0 sweep of the Bulldogs, the fourth consecutive sweep and ninth straight win over MSU. Tennessee earned a hard fought 4-3 victory over Ole Miss two days later. With the Lady Vols down 3-2 and just two singles matches remaining, Joanna Henderson and Brynn Boren captured wins just minutes from each other to come back and earn the weekend sweep. The Lady Vols were perfect in doubles action on the weekend, sweeping their opponents on both Friday and Sunday. The nation's No. 4 doubles pair of Boren and Kata Szekely was exceptionally perfect, not losing a single game on the weekend.
Georgia (10-1, 3-0 SEC) remained undefeated in conference play last weekend, beating Ole Miss and Mississippi State in Athens, Ga. Georgia improved to 41-9 all-time against the Rebels and remained undefeated against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs then defeated No. 19 Notre Dame on Tuesday by a 6-1 count. Seventh-ranked Lauren Herring remains the team leader in singles victories at 27-4, while 17th-ranked Maho Kowase is 26-7 and 120th-ranked Kate Fuller is 20-5. The third-ranked duo of Fuller and Silvia Garcia remain undefeated on the year, improving to 12-0, and they are 4-0 against nationally ranked opponents.
The Gamecocks' rivalry with both teams dates back to the 1970s before they joined the SEC in the early '90s. The Lady Volunteers own the edge 24 to 17 and have won 11 of the past 13 match-ups with South Carolina, but seven of those 11 victories have come by 4-3 margins. In fact, the last four meetings in the series have been decided by one point. South Carolina's two victories in the past 13 contests with Tennessee have actually come in Knoxville, Tenn., and its last home win over Tennessee was April 19, 2002, when it hosted the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks' last win over the Lady Vols was one of the more memorable matches in their history when they knocked them off in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2009 to advance to the Sweet 16. Four-time All-SEC performer Gira Schofield scored the winning point in thrilling fashion with a three-set win over Caitlin Whoriskey at No. 1 singles to lift the Gamecocks past the 10th-ranked Lady Vols by a 4-3 margin.
South Carolina has played Georgia more than any other team in its history since first fielding a varsity team in spring 1974. Sunday marks the 57th time the two schools have played and the Bulldogs own the advantage 41 to 15. Like Tennessee, the Gamecocks have not beaten Georgia in Columbia since the 2002 SEC Tournament when they beat the then-No. 1 Bulldogs in the semifinals at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center. South Carolina lost to Georgia 4-0 in the quarterfinals of last year's SEC Tournament and also 6-1 in Athens during the regular season. The Gamecocks' last win over UGA came in Athens in 2010 by a 4-1 margin in the quarterfinal round of SECs. Miljana Jocic provided the winning point in that contest at No. 4 singles.
South Carolina will remain at home for more SEC action next week as well. The Gamecocks welcome No. 17 Auburn to Columbia on March 22 for a 5 p.m. contest and then No. 8 Alabama on March 24 at 1:30 p.m.