Gamecocks Face No. 1 Florida in Gainesville on Saturday
April 14, 2011
South Carolina (12-8, 4-6 SEC) suffered a pair of heartbreaking 4-3 losses last week to then-Nos. 14 and 6 Tennessee and Georgia in the Gamecocks' final two home matches of the season. After being swept in doubles, South Carolina took three of the singles matches versus the Lady Volunteers, but lost in three sets in the deciding match at No. 4 singles. The Gamecocks won doubles over Georgia and then claimed courts one and three in singles. The final two matches on courts four and five belonged to the Bulldogs in three sets.
Florida (21-1, 10-0 SEC) regained the No. 1 ranking this week from Stanford after registering wins over both Georgia and Tennessee. The Gators won at least a share of their 25th regular-season SEC crown in the 32 years the league has sponsored the sport. Florida's only loss this year came against undefeated Stanford in the finals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February. UF also lost to the Cardinal in the NCAA Championship finals last year in Athens, Ga.
The Gators own several impressive records in Gainesville. They have currently won 101 consecutive regular-season matches at home with their last loss coming against Georgia in 2002. Florida has won 92 straight at home overall, the last loss being versus Miami in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Florida has an all-time record of 412-25 in matches played in Gainesville.
"Their record at home is outstanding," head coach Arlo Elkins said. "It's going to be a difficult task for us, but it's not an impossible task. We have to work really hard. We had two really good matches this weekend. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of a couple of really highly ranked teams, but we were right in the matches. If we can compete and play like we did last weekend then I think we'll be able to hold our own with Florida."
South Carolina enters the match-up using the same lineup as it did versus Tennessee and Georgia. The match-up at No. 1 singles figures to be entertaining between the Gamecocks' Anya Morgina and Florida's Allie Will. Morgina moved to No. 29 in this week's national rankings after scoring a win over Chelsey Gullickson, the defending NCAA champion. Will is ranked seventh, the highest of any player in the SEC, and has lost just once this spring. Overall, Morgina stands at 23-10 on the year, while Will is 26-3. In league matches, Morgina tops the conference in wins at No. 1 with an 8-2 mark. Will is 8-0 in the SEC with five wins at one and three at two.
On court two, Dijana Stojic, ranked 82nd, will square off with No. 20-ranked Lauren Embree. Stojic is 20-8 overall this year and leads the Gamecocks in dual match victories with a 14-5 record. Stojic has also put together a 7-2 record playing at No. 2 singles in the SEC. Embree has yet to lose this spring after sitting out the fall, boasting a perfect 17-0 mark between Nos. 1 and 2 singles. She is 3-0 in the SEC playing at one and 5-0 at two.
The No. 3 singles match-up features two players with very similar rankings. Katerina Popova comes in at No. 108, a career-high for the Gamecock freshman, after she defeated then-No. 37 Brynn Boren of Tennessee. Florida counters with Sofie Oyen, also a freshman, with a ranking of No. 104. Popova holds a 6-3 record in SEC matches and is 6-2 playing on court three. Overall, she is 18-8 and 11-6 in duals playing Nos. 3 and 4. Oyen has a few more wins overall at 21-8 and she is 8-1 in the SEC.
The bottom half of Florida's lineup features No. 37 Joanna Mather, No. 51 Alexandra Cercone and No. 49 Olivia Janowicz. The trio is a combined 22-2 in SEC matches with one loss coming by Cercone and the other by Mather. South Carolina with use Dominika Kanakova at No. 4 singles followed by Adriana Pereira and Miljana Jocic at five and six.
In doubles, Kanakova and Morgina hope to ride the momentum they gained from defeating Georgia's top squad, ranked ninth last week, when facing No. 8-ranked Will and Cercone on court one. Kanakova and Morgina's big win versus the Bulldogs catapulted them to No. 32 in the latest ITA rankings, and the duo is hoping to make a late charge for an NCAA bid. At two, No. 43 Embree and Oyen will face Stojic and Pereira, while Janowicz and Mather face Popova and Jocic on court three.
South Carolina will head to Knoxville, Tenn., next week for the SEC Tournament over April 21-24. The Gamecocks will hold either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed for the event and will face No. 37 Ole Miss in the first round. A time for the match has not been announced.
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