The 30th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (15-8) will take on No. 32 TCU (18-5) on Friday at 10 a.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Ambler Tennis Stadium on the Duke campus in Durham, N.C.
Katarina Petrovic was named interim head coach Feb. 28 when Arlo Elkins announced he was stepping aside from the day-to-day activities as head coach. Elkins later died at his home in Columbia on March 31. Petrovic has gone 8-7 and finished 5-6 in the SEC since taking over the reins for Elkins. She is in her eighth season at Carolina, first starting as the assistant coach in 2004-05 before being promoted to associate head coach in summer 2009. Petrovic was named the ITA Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2009 as well. Petrovic is a South Carolina graduate and played for the Gamecocks from 1999 to 2002. She still holds the school record for highest singles ranking at No. 13 in March 2000.
Following the death of coach Arlo Elkins on March 31, team members began wearing black tape around their wrists starting with the Auburn contest on April 1 in honor of coach Elkins.
Doubles play has improved tremendously for the Gamecocks after they lost both points to Georgia and Tennessee to open SEC play. Coach Katarina Petrovic has made it a major point of emphasis in practice and South Carolina has won eight of 11 doubles points since. The Gamecocks won five doubles points in a row before losing to Georgia in the SEC Tournament. Carolina handed Florida just its second loss in doubles this year to close out the regular season. Included in that win was Jaklin Alawi and Dijana Stojic's 8-3 victory against the No. 1 duo in the nation.
The Gamecocks are at full strength with their lineup now thanks to the return of Dijana Stojic. The senior underwent back surgery in February prior to the Clemson match and did not return until April 6 versus LSU. She is listed at No. 1 doubles with Jaklin Alawi and will play No. 3 singles during NCAAs.
South Carolina has boasted three ranked singles players all spring. Currently, Anya Morgina is 45th, Dijana Stojic is 72nd and Jaklin Alawi stands 88th. For doubles, Alawi is nationally ranked with Stojic at No. 38 and she holds a No. 79 ranking with Morgina.
South Carolina and TCU are squaring off for the second time in three years in the first round of NCAA play. Two years ago, the Gamecocks and Horned Frogs met in the first round in Tallahassee, Fla. TCU won the doubles point, but Carolina dominated singles play. While TCU did win one of the singles contests, South Carolina won handily on four other courts in singles to pick up a 4-2 victory and advance to the second round to play Florida State. Three members of this year's Gamecock squad played in that match two years ago with seniors Anya Morgina and Dijana Stojic, and junior Adriana Pereira. Junior Josefin Andersson was on the team at the time, but she was sidelined due to a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered against Clemson earlier that year. TCU has just one member of the 2010 squad that faced TCU, Gaby Mastromarino. In that match, Mastromarino defeated Pereira in straight sets at No. 5 singles. Both players are listed at No. 6 singles for this year's tournament.
TCU and South Carolina do have a somewhat extensive history playing each other. The Gamecocks and Horned Frogs first met in 1979 at the AIAW Nationals in Iowa City, Iowa. South Carolina won that match 5-4 and owns a record of 15-3 all-time against TCU. Carolina won the first 13 meetings between the two schools from 1979 to 1997. South Carolina and TCU played one another for 12 straight years from 1990 to 2001 alternating between Fort Worth, Texas, and Columbia, S.C. TCU finished the series with a pair of wins. Current Gamecock interim head coach Katarina Petrovic played against TCU in all but her senior year as a member of Carolina's team.
In addition to TCU, the Durham, N.C., regional is one that offers South Carolina histories with the other teams as well. Winthrop, a short drive from Columbia, S.C., to Rock Hill, S.C., has played the Gamecocks the past nine years in a row. South Carolina has won all nine match-ups with the Eagles and defeated them 6-1 earlier this season. Duke and South Carolina have played 15 times with the Blue Devils leading the series 11-4. The two schools played each other for 11 straight years from 1989 to 1999. The Gamecocks recorded just one victory during that span, a 5-4 win in 1995 in Columbia. South Carolina won the first three matches against Duke between 1979 and 1985. The two last met in 2003 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which the Blue Devils won 4-0 in Durham. The Gamecocks pulled out a 4-3 win in the first round that season over Penn.
The Gamecocks are making their 22nd NCAA Women's Tennis Championship appearance in the event's now 31st year of existence. South Carolina owns an all-time record of 21-21 in the tournament. South Carolina's best showing came in the first championship in 1982 when it reached the quarterfinals after defeating Florida and in 2009 when it also made the quarters after downing Washington. South Carolina has made a total of six Sweet 16 appearances (1982, 1983, 1990, 1995, 1999, 2009). The Gamecocks have also made 18 consecutive NCAA appearances, tied for the 11th longest active streak in the country. South Carolina is also one of only 19 teams in the country to make at least 20 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and Carolina ranks tied for 13th in all-time NCAA appearances. The other 18 teams with at least 20 NCAA bids include: California (31), Stanford (31), UCLA (31), Florida (30), Southern California (30), Texas (30), Pepperdine (29), Arizona State (27), Miami (Fla.) (27), Georgia (26), Duke (24), Northwestern (23), Arizona (22), Indiana (22), Tennessee (22), San Diego State (21), Clemson (20) and Kentucky (20).
The NCAA first held a championship for women's tennis in 1982 in Salt Lake City. For the first six championships, the field consisted of just 16 teams and expanded to 20 starting in 1988. From 1988 to 1995, eight of the 20 teams selected played first-round matches and the other 12 received byes. From 1996 to 1998, the NCAA changed the format to include 58 teams, with 10 receiving automatic bids to the 16-team championship. The other six spots were determined through tournaments in six regions (East, Central, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, West) with eight schools in each. In 1999, the NCAA adopted what is still the current format of a 64-team bracket where each team must play every round. First- and second-round matches are played at 16 campus sites with four teams each, and the round of 16 and beyond is held at one institution. Starting in 2006, the NCAA combined the men's and women's round of 16 and beyond at the same location over the same time frame and included the individual championships there as well.
With the selection of Anya Morgina to the NCAA Singles Championship, South Carolina has had a singles competitor or doubles team in 24 of 31 NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. Laura Bernstein remains the only Gamecock to advance to the round of 16 in singles, doing so in 1983 in Albuquerque, N.M. In doubles, Helen Crook and Victoria Davies are the only South Carolina duo to go as far as the semifinals, which happened in 1994 in Athens, Ga. If one were to count the individual and team tournaments, South Carolina has participated in at least one NCAA event every year since 1990, a streak of 23 appearances in a row.
Since first competing in the SEC in 1992, the Gamecocks have enjoyed consistent success in a league that is arguably the toughest in the nation. Since the league expanded to 12 teams, the Gamecocks are one of six SEC schools to win 100 league matches, and their .537 (124-107) winning percentage ranks fifth in the conference.