Gamecocks Look to End Regular Season Strong at Vandy, Kentucky
April 11, 2013
South Carolina (13-8, 6-5 SEC) extended its SEC unbeaten streak to four matches over the weekend by defeating Mississippi State 4-3 and then-No. 37 Ole Miss 4-0. The Gamecocks are now above .500 in the SEC for the first time this season. Mississippi State pushed the Gamecocks to the brink, but Elixane Lechemia came through with a three set victory against Alexandra Perper at No. 2 singles, winning 7-5 in the third in the last match remaining on court. South Carolina came from behind versus Ole Miss in doubles despite trailing 7-3 on court two and 5-2 on court three after winning the No. 1 doubles contest. Lechemia and Ximena Siles Luna won six of seven games at No. 3 doubles to clinch the point with an 8-6 triumph. Lechemia then earned her first career win over a ranked player in then-No. 82 Mai El Kamash to put Carolina head 2-0. Jaklin Alawi provided the fourth point with an upset of then-No. 45 Caroline Rohde-Moe at No. 1 singles in straight sets.
Lechemia's strong weekend made her South Carolina's third consecutive SEC Player of the Week winner on Wednesday. The Gamecocks are the first team to ever win the weekly accolade three times in a row since the conference office began giving the award in 2000. Dominika Kanakova began the streak on March 27 after helping the Gamecocks upset Auburn and Katerina Popova picked it up last week following wins at Arkansas and LSU.
The latest rankings released Tuesday saw Alawi on the rise in both singles and doubles. Her win against Rohde-Moe from Ole Miss helped her advance 10 spots to No. 77. Popova remains in the rankings as well at No. 108. Alawi and Kanakova moved 15 places in doubles up to No. 35 and are poised to receive an NCAA Doubles Championship bid should they continue their strong play down the stretch.
The Gamecocks have proven to be tough outs in doubles all year long, winning the point 16 times in 20 tries. Alawi and Kanakova lead the way at the top spot with a 22-8 record, making them the winningest Carolina duo in a single season since the 2001-02 campaign. The duo of Jodi Kenoyer and Lynn-Yin Tan went 27-8 that season. Josefin Andersson and Popova are equally as tough at the second spot with an overall mark of 17-8. Both duos stand 13-3 in dual matches. Lechemia and Siles Luna continue to come on strong this year as well with a 6-3 record that includes a 5-2 mark in conference play.
Vanderbilt (13-9, 6-5 SEC) defeated Kentucky in the only match over the weekend for both squads by a 5-2 score. To begin the match, Vanderbilt used a couple different doubles combinations en route to winning the doubles point. At the No. 2 position, Frances Altick and Ashleigh Antal defeated Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and CeCe Witten 8-5. On court three, Marie Casares and Georgina Sellyn needed little time to defeat Khristina Blajkevitch and Jessica Stiles 8-2. The Commodores clinched the match by winning singles matches at position Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6. Courtney Colton delivered the match-clinching win at the No. 2 position. Playing in the No. 4 spot, Sellyn recorded her fifth-consecutive win after breezing through her match with Kirsten Lewis 6-0, 6-0. Sellyn is 21-6 overall this season and 10-1 in SEC play. She is also ranked No. 83 nationally, as is Lauren Mira at No. 59. Mira also ranks 21st in doubles with Colton.
Kentucky (12-10, 3-8 SEC) enters the weekend having lost five in row and seven of its last eight. The Wildcats will host No. 2 Florida on Friday before taking on the Gamecocks. UK did pick up a win at No. 1 singles against Vanderbilt thanks to Nadia Ravita beating Mira in straight sets 7-5, 6-3 to earn her eighth win over a ranked opponent this year. Ravita moved up two spots in this week's national rankings to No. 22. The Wildcats' three SEC victories this season have come at the expense of Missouri, LSU and Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt has always proven to be a challenge for the Gamecocks. The Commodores own a 17-12 edge in the all-time series and have beaten the Gamecocks the past two times they have played. South Carolina suffered a 5-2 setback last season and fell 4-3 at Vandy in 2011. The Gamecocks last beat Vanderbilt in 2010 when they lost the doubles point but came back to win five of six in singles for the 5-2 victory. South Carolina also beat the Commodores 4-3 in 2008 in a thriller that took nearly five and a half hours to complete. Gira Schofield clinched the match in a tiebreaker in the third set against Amanda Taylor at No. 1 singles. Carolina's last win at Vanderbilt came in 2005 when the Gamecocks stunned the then-No. 5 Commodores 5-2.
South Carolina has won seven straight against Kentucky dating back to 2009 and eight of the past nine matchups between the two schools. The Gamecocks' recent success versus the Wildcats has given them an 18-14 advantage in the series. Carolina beat Kentucky twice last year, winning 6-1 in Columbia, S.C., and then 5-0 at the SEC Tournament in Ole Miss. The Gamecocks were 6-1 winners the last time they visited Lexington, Ky., in 2011.
Following the regular season, South Carolina will head to Starkville, Miss., to begin play in the SEC Tournament with first-round action starting Wednesday, April 17.