Key Matches at Georgia, Tennessee Await South Carolina
April 8, 2010
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The No. 15 South Carolina women's tennis team (14-4, 7-1 SEC) looks to stay in the hunt for the SEC regular-season title with key matches at No. 14 Georgia (11-5, 7-1 SEC) on Friday at 5 p.m. and at No. 16 Tennessee (12-6, 6-2 SEC) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Gamecocks moved into a tie for second place in the conference Sunday with a 5-2 victory against Vanderbilt, the same day Georgia suffered its first SEC loss of the season by falling 5-2 at Ole Miss. Florida is the only team left with an undefeated conference record at 8-0, and Tennessee sits in fourth place with a 6-2 mark.
South Carolina is currently riding a six-match unbeaten streak and has won 12 of its past 13 contests. Ana Marija Zubori has won all six of her matches during the team's current streak at No. 1 singles to improve to 11-7 this spring at the position. Currently ranked No. 75, Zubori has defeated five played players in a row, the most recent being 23rd-ranked Catherine Newman of Vanderbilt.
Dijana Stojic continued her outstanding play last week, extending her winning streak to five matches and upping her dual match record to a team-leading 15-3 at No. 2 singles. Stojic is 19-12 overall for the year and defeated No. 27 Jackie Wu from Vandy 6-3, 6-0 in her last match, making Wu the highest ranked player Stojic has beaten in her career.
Despite a loss in her last match that snapped a five-match winning streak, No. 107 Anya Morgina has posted an impressive 14-4 mark at No. 3 singles for South Carolina this season. Morgina is 19-8 overall and 6-2 in SEC matches as well.
Miljana Jocic and Adriana Pereira have been key pieces in the Gamecocks' bottom singles half all season. Jocic has the best record on the team with a stellar 25-5 mark, while Pereira joined the 20-win club last week and is now 20-8. Both players have played every position in the bottom half, going a combined 26-5 in dual matches. Jocic is 6-1 in SEC matches, while Pereira is tied with Stojic for the most SEC victories with a 7-1 slate.
Madeleine Saari-Byström is scheduled to play No. 6 singles for the Gamecocks this week after making her return to the lineup against Vanderbilt. Saari-Byström missed the six matches prior to Vanderbilt with an injury to her right arm. In her return, she played second doubles with Jocic and provided the fourth and winning point in singles on court six with a three-set win over Hannah Blatt. Blatt entered the match with a 6-0 record in the SEC.
In doubles, the Gamecocks have the No. 24-ranked tandem with Zubori and Stojic, who are 15-6 overall this season and 12-6 in dual matches at the No. 1 position. At two, Jocic and Saari-Byström will play together for the sixth time this season at No. 2 doubles. Morgina and Pereira will look to extend their current three-match winning streak at No. 3 doubles.
Carolina has played Georgia more than any other school since first fielding a varsity team in spring 1974. Friday marks the 52nd meeting between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks. Georgia holds a 37-14 edge in the all-time series and has won 11 straight over South Carolina. The Gamecocks' last victory came in 2002 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament when South Carolina hosted the event and pulled off a 4-2 win over the then-No. 1-ranked Bulldogs.
After defeating South Carolina 6-1 in the regular season in 2009, the schools met in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship for an epic battle. With the match tied 3-all, the deciding point came at No. 3 singles between the Gamecocks' Stojic and Georgia's Nadja Gilchrist. Stojic held a 5-4 lead in the third set, but Gilchrist managed to battle back and win the match 7-5 to end the Gamecocks' tourney run.
This season's Georgia squad has taken two more losses than it suffered all of last season when it advanced to the Final Four. Entering SEC play, the Bulldogs lost to Clemson, North Carolina, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech. With its first conference loss to Ole Miss, all five of Georgia's losses have come against teams currently ranked in the top 20 in the country.
Georgia has two players nationally ranked in singles play, starting with 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year Chelsey Gullickson at No. 10. Gilchrist currently has a national ranking of 29th, and Gullickson and Gilchrist team up to comprise the No. 10-ranked doubles team in the country. Yvette Hyndman and Naoko Ueshima are listed at No. 76 in doubles as well.
South Carolina and Tennessee have a long history as well, and one that includes many close matches over the years. The Lady Vols hold a slight 21-17 advantage in the series and have won eight of the past 10 meetings. Four of those wins have come by 4-3 margins.
The last time the two teams met, it was a 4-3 decision as well, but this one favored the Gamecocks. South Carolina lost to Tennessee in both the regular season and the SEC Tournament last year and then faced the Lady Vols again in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. Carolina dominated the doubles on courts two and three to grab the momentum heading to singles. After posting wins on courts two and three thanks to Zubori and Stojic, the match came down to No. 1 singles between the Gamecocks' Gira Schofield and UT's Cailtin Whoriskey. Schofield prevailed in a three-set marathon 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-4 to send South Carolina to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time since 1999.
Whoriskey headlines Tennessee in the singles rankings with a No. 11 national ranking. Maria Sorbello is ranked No. 67 as well playing the No. 2 singles position. In doubles, Whoriskey and Natalie Pluskota remain the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the country thanks to their outstanding fall campaign. An injury to Pluskota, however, has kept her out of singles play since Feb. 12, and she last teamed with Whoriskey on Feb. 14. Rosalia Alda and Zsofia Zubor are ranked No. 22 in doubles, while Whoriskey and Sorbello hold a No. 66 ranking together.