The No. 22 South Carolina women's tennis team (16-10) will take on the No. 32 Washington Huskies (18-7) in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships on Friday at 1 p.m. ET in College Station, Texas.
NCAA Championships Schedule
Both the men's and women's championships take place in College Station, Texas. The team tournament begins first followed by the singles and doubles events.
May 14 -- Men's Round of 16
May 15 -- Women's Round of 16
May 16 -- Men's Quarterfinals
May 17 -- Women's Quarterfinals
May 18 -- Men & Women's Semifinals
May 19 -- Men & Women's Finals
May 20 -- Men's & Women's First Round
May 21 -- Men's & Women's Second Round
May 22 -- Men's & Women's Round of 16
May 23 -- Men's & Women's Quarterfinals
May 24 -- Men & Women's Semifinals
May 25 -- Men & Women's Finals
May 21 -- Men's & Women's First Round
May 22 -- Men's & Women's Round of 16
May 23 -- Men's & Women's Quarterfinals
May 24 -- Men & Women's Semifinals
May 25 -- Men & Women's Finals
The Huskies submitted the following lineup for NCAA competition this year:
Washington Series History
Friday's match with Washington will mark the first meeting between the two schools.
Like South Carolina, the Huskies enter the round of 16 as an unseeded team that survived the first two rounds by defeating San Diego State 4-0 and then pulling a stunner over No. 7-seeded Southern California 4-3. South Carolina and Washington are the only two unseeded teams in the round of 16. The Huskies are 18-7 following the first two rounds of NCAA play and went 3-5 in the Pac-10 during the regular season. With the exception of Sacramento State, all of Washington's losses this season have come against teams currently ranked among the nation's top 30. Washington is led by sophomore Venise Chan who holds a national singles ranking of 19th. Chan is 21-3 at No. 1 singles this season and 28-5 overall. Freshman Denise Dy is the Huskies' other ranked player at No. 78. She is 17-7 at two singles and 24-11 for the entire season. Dy and junior Joyce Ardies are UW's lone ranked doubles tandem at No. 47 with an impressive 11-1 record playing No. 1 doubles.
Undefeated Gamecocks in the Tourney
Senior Gira Schofield and freshman Dijana Stojic are a perfect 4-0 each in the NCAA Tournament this season after winning all their matches against Wake Forest and Tennessee. Stojic clinched the victory for South Carolina versus Wake Forest and then Schofield did likewise the following day against Tennessee. Junior Ana Marija Zubori is 2-0 after winning both singles matches and did not finish either of her doubles contests. For her careeer, Zubori owns a 4-0 singles record playing in the NCAA team tournament.
NCAA Team History
The Gamecocks are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the event's now 28-year history. South Carolina owns an all-time record of 18-18 in the tournament following the first two rounds this season. South Carolina's best showing came in the first tourney in 1982 when it reached the quarterfinals after defeating Florida. South Carolina has now made a total of six Sweet 16 appearances, coming in 2009, 1999, 1995, 1990, 1983, and 1982.
20-Plus Dual Match Wins for Zubori
Junior Ana Marija Zubori owns 21 dual match victories this season, making her the first Gamecock since 1995 to win at least 20 in one season. Heather Greene won 21 in 1995 while Tracy Kotseos recorded 22. Green had 21 in 1994 as well. Other Gamecocks who have won at least 21 in a season include Rita Winebarger (31 - 1985, 22 - 1987), Carolina Culik (22 - 1987), Biljana Mirkovic (23 - 1987) and Diane Commons (24 - 1985).
Petrovic Earns Regional Award
Gamecock assistant coach Katarina Petrovic was named the 2009 ITA Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year. Petrovic is the first assistant coach at South Carolina to pick up the honor. Petrovic has been the catalyst behind the Gamecocks' recruiting efforts, bringing in star athletes such as Gira Schofield, Natasa Vuckovic and Ana Marija Zubori. The trio has earned 10 all-conference citations during their careers, received five bids to the NCAA Singles Championship and two to the NCAA Doubles Championship. They also helped propel the Gamecocks to the NCAA round of 16 in 2009.
Gamecocks Earn NCAA Individual Bids
Senior Gira Schofield became the first player in school history to earn four consecutive bids to the NCAA Singles Championship this season. She will be joined in the singles tournament by junior Ana Marija Zubori, who is making her first appearance. Zubori will compete in the doubles championship as well with teammate Natasa Vuckovic. It marks the first time since 2002 South Carolina will have representatives in both individual tournaments. Schofield and Zubori received a bid for doubles last season, but the duo did not compete since Zubori was injured.
NCAA Individual History
South Carolina has placed either a singles competitor or doubles team in 22 of 28 NCAA individual 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. In 2006, Gira Schofield became just the second Gamecock freshman to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. 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 20 appearances in a row.
NCAA Championship Format History
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.
Senior Gira Schofield and junior Ana Marija Zubori snagged All-SEC honors for the Gamecocks this season. Schofield made the second team to become the first player in school history to earn All-SEC recognition four consecutive seasons. Schofield was a second-team honoree in 2006 and 2008 as well. As a sophomore, she became just the second player at South Carolina to earn first-team accolades. Zubori became the third Gamecock in school history to make the first team when she picked up the honor this season. She made the second team her first two years at Carolina and will look to join Schofield as a four-time award winner next year.
Schofield Named SEC Player of the Week
Senior Gira Schofield snagged SEC Player of the Week honors for the first time her career April 14. Schofield posted an undefeated record at No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles for the Gamecocks in helping them earn wins over Auburn and Alabama. Versus Auburn, Schofield topped then-No. 6 Fani Chifchieva in three sets for the highest ranked win of her career. She then defeated then-No. 105 Tiffany Welcher from Alabama 6-0, 6-1. Schofield and partner Miljana Jocic posted a pair of 8-4 wins for the Gamecocks. Both of their wins clinched the doubles points against Auburn and Alabama.
Stojic Earns First SEC Honor
After helping the Gamecocks earn victories against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, Dijana Stojic earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the first time in her career. Stojic won her No. 3 doubles and No. 3 singles match-up against the Bulldogs in a 6-1 South Carolina victory in Starkville, Miss., and then gave the Gamecocks their first point in singles versus Ole Miss. South Carolina lost the doubles point to the Rebels before winning five of six singles matches.
Zubori's Career Percentage
With an 82-23 career singles record, junior Ana Marija Zubori has a 78.1 percent winning percentage that currently ranks as the fifth best in school history. Her career combined record for singles and doubles is 143-62 (.698), good for a percentage that stands 10th in Gamecock history.
A Ranking Best for Schofield
Senior Gira Schofield surpassed her previous career record of a No. 23 national singles ranking when the Feb. 19 list had her pegged at 19th. Previously, Schofield was No. 71 heading into the spring, a jump of 52 spots. Schofield won 13 matches in a row dating back to last fall before losing at Clemson.
Zubori Named SEC Player of the Week
Junior Ana Marija Zubori picked up SEC Player of the Week honors following the Gamecocks' victory against VCU in a consolation match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Her win at No. 2 singles in three sets against the Rams clinched South Carolina's 4-3 victory. It was the first time in Zubori's career she picked up the weekly accolade from the conference office.
Career Wins for Schofield
Senior Gira Schofield scored her first career victory against a top-10 opponent Jan. 21 when she defeated Furman's Laura Gioia 7-6, 6-1. Gioia came into the match ranked No. 9 in the country. Schofield's previous best win came her freshman year when she topped Robin Stephenson of Alabama who was 12th at the time. Schofield then outdid her performance against Gioia by upending then-No. 6 Fani Chifchieva from Auburn in April. The win helped Schofield pick up the first SEC Player of the Week honor in her career the next week.
Junior Ana Marija Zubori is no stranger to three-set matches this season and she is quite good when it gets pushed the distance with an impressive 9-3 record. The most recorded three-set victories in a season is 10 by Kathy Boyanovich (2000-01) and Nathalie Rodriguez (1989-90).
Zubori at Her Best Against the Best
Junior Ana Marija Zubori has played outstanding tennis this season while taking on some of the best players in the country. At 29-6 overall, she owns an impressive record of 13-3 versus ranked players. So far in 2008-09, Zubori has defeated players ranked 23rd, 36th, 37th, 40th (2x), 42nd, 43rd, 52nd, 70th, 71st, 73rd, 96th and 117th at the time of the matches. Three of her six losses came against players with a higher national ranking than her when they played.
Zubori Comes Close to School Record
Junior Ana Marija Zubori's stellar fall season that saw her go 8-2 with four wins against players ranked in the top 50 of the fall preseason ITA rankings paid off with a No. 14 national singles ranking to begin the spring. Zubori's rating of 14th fell one short of tying the school record held by current assistant coach Katarina Petrovic (Markovski). Petrovic reached the top recorded ranking in school history of 13th on March 29, 2000. She went on to finish the year ranked No. 29. The highest final ranking in school history belongs to Laura Bernstein, who ended the 1982-83 campaign ranked 15th.
SEC Preseason Coaches Poll
The Georgia Bulldogs were picked as the overall champion in the 2009 SEC Preseason Coaches Poll. Last season, the Bulldogs went 22-5 and reached the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships. They finished 2008 ranked No. 8 and won their second straight SEC Tournament title and fifth overall in school history. Georgia was also voted as Eastern Division champion, with Florida being voted second. Vanderbilt was voted third, with Tennessee in fourth, South Carolina in fifth and Kentucky in sixth. On the Western Division side, Arkansas was picked to dominate, with Auburn in the No. 2 spot. LSU came in third with Ole Miss in the fourth spot. Alabama and Mississippi State rounded out the list at fifth and sixth, respectively. The preseason poll is voted on by the SEC women's tennis coaches and is based on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 count. The complete tally for the poll is below.
1. Arkansas 72
2. Auburn 54
3. LSU 50
4. Ole Miss 35
5. Alabama 28
6. Mississippi State 13
Overall Champion: Georgia (11), Arkansas (1)
Not a Typical Schedule
The Gamecocks schedule this season was somewhat different for several reasons. First, South Carolina played five matches in the month of January, the most it has ever played during coach Arlo Elkins' 26 years at the helm. Previously, the most an Elkins-coached team had played in January was four in 1990. After a hefty early season schedule, the Gamecocks faced a light load in February. South Carolina had just three matches in February, the fewest under Elkins. Lastly, opportunities to see the Gamecocks at home were scarce this season. Just seven home matches were played, the fewest Elkins has played during his tenure.
Schofield's Streak in the Rankings Continues
Senior Gira Schofield started the spring ranked No. 71 and is now No. 43, continuing her streak of appearing in every release of the ITA polls since March 6, 2007. She has now appeared in 26 consecutive releases of the ITA's national singles rankings.
Season Opener Streak
The Gamecocks extended their string of consecutive years winning the first match of the season to 12 years thanks to a 5-2 triumph over BYU on Jan. 16. The last time South Carolina lost a match to begin a season was 1997 when the Gamecocks suffered an 8-1 setback at Wake Forest.
Schofield Among Top 10 on Career Lists
Senior Gira Schofield cracked the school's career top-10 list for combined singles and doubles victories following a weekend of play against Miami (Ohio) and Michigan. Schofield's current career record of 166-114 has her in sole possession of fifth place. Schofield is also alone in fourth on the career list for doubles victories with 79. With two singles wins in this year's NCAA Tournament, Schofield also broke into the top-10 list for singles victories and stands tied for seventh with 87.
Vuckovic Among Top Five on Career Lists
Senior Natasa Vuckovic continues to climb the career charts at South Carolina. With a 95-45 career singles record, Vuckovic is in sole possession of fourth place on the school's all-time list. She is one of just six players in school history to win at least 90 matches. Vuckovic's 77-60 record in doubles has her in fifth place and with a 172-105 combined record, Vuckovic is by herself in fourth place.
A Program of Consistency
South Carolina extended its streak of consecutive NCAA appearances to 15 in 2009, which stands as the 11th-longest active streak in the country. During those 15 years, the Gamecocks advanced beyond the first round 13 times and have now reached the round of 16 three times. Below is a look at the current streaks.
Success Among the Best
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 .545 (108-90) winning percentage ranks fifth in the conference. South Carolina has now posted a winning league record in 11 of 18 seasons. Below is a list of teams' SEC regular-season records since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1991-92. The list is sorted from best to worst winning percentage.
South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins is looking to achieve another milestone this season by capturing his 400th career victory. Elkins entered 2009 with 383 to his cred it and is now just one away from reaching 400. The first coach in any sport at South Carolina to be named SEC Coach of the Year (1995), Elkins won his 100th match Jan. 20, 1990, against N.C. State. His 200th happened March 24, 1996, against Vanderbilt and No. 300 came Jan. 29, 2003, versus College of Charleston. During Elkins' tenure as head coach, the Gamecocks have been to the NCAA Tournament 17 times including the past 15 and finished in the top 25 of the final team rankings 13 times.
Zubori Continues Assault on Records
Just a junior, Ana Marija Zubori is likely to leave her named etched all throughout the records book at South Carolina when her eligibility is complete. As a freshman, she won 31 singles matches to become the first player since Tracy Kotseos in 1994-95 to win at least 30 matches and it was the most wins by a Gamecock since Nathalie Rodriguez and Robin Deitch won 35 and 31 matches in 1989-90. Zubori entered her junior year with a 53-17 record in singles, putting her on pace to become just the fourth player in school history to eclipse the century mark. With a current 143-62 combined record between singles and doubles, Zubori could make a run at Lynn-Yin Tan's record of 203 victories from 1998 to 2002.
The Gamecocks competed during the fall at Northwestern University's Wildcat Invitational and South Carolina rolled through one draw after another. On the first day of competition, the Gamecocks' three doubles teams all won two matches to reach the semifinals and all six players won their opening rounds of singles. Day two saw the three doubles teams all win to reach the finals in both draws, pitting one South Carolina duo against another in the final. In singles, the Gamecocks lost just one match to place four players in the finals of their draws, and senior Gira Schofield and junior Ana Marija Zubori had to play each other for the championship of the top flight. On the final day, the Gamecocks took both flights of doubles and Schofield topped Zubori for the A flight title. Over the three days, the Gamecocks were 11-1 in doubles with the one loss coming because Schofield/Jocic and Zubori/Vuckovic had to play each other in the final of the A draw. South Carolina was a combined 17-3 in singles contests to post a combined record of 28-4 at the tournament.
The Mighty SEC
As is the case in most years, the Southeastern Conference is strong from top to bottom once again. All 12 teams are currently ranked among the top 75. Georgia leads the way at No. 2 followed by Tennessee (10), Arkansas (14), Florida (15), Vanderbilt (19), Ole Miss (21), South Carolina (22), Alabama (24), LSU (25), Kentucky (26), Auburn (33) and Mississippi State (54). Every team except Mississippi State made the NCAA Tournament and eight advanced to at least the second round. South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia all reached the round of 16. The ACC and Pac-10 also placed four teams in the round of 16.
Vuckovic Among Elite Company
Senior Natasa Vuckovic is among elite company at South Carolina having won at least 20 singles matches four straight years. Only five other Gamecocks have accomplished the feat, the most recent being Jennifer Radman, Tamara Sutton and Lynn-Yin Tan. All three players won at least 20 per season four straight years from 1999 to 2002. Rita Winebarger also posted four consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins from 1985 to 1988, as did Carolina Culik from 1987 to 1990. Winebarger actually won over 30 matches in three of her four years, a large reason why she owns the school's all-time record for singles wins at 127.
Three Straight Years With 20 Wins
Against Georgia this year, junior Ana Marija Zubori joined the elite club teammate Natasa Vuckovic joined last year by winning at least 20 singles matches per season in her first three years. Zubori is just the eighth Gamecock to do it. She is looking to make a run at winning 30 for the second time in her career after doing it her freshman year. Rita Winebarger is the only Gamecock in school history to have multiple 30-win seasons during her career. Winebarger did in three times between 1985 and 1988. Zubori needs one more victory this season to reach 30.
Playing the Best Every Time
Senior Gira Schofield has had the somewhat unenviable task during her entire career of playing the No. 1 singles position every match. Playing the top slot means a player will always take on the other team's top player and will likely have a tough match almost every time out. Despite the challenge, Schofield has been a consistent winner for the Gamecocks year after year. Her career record at No. 1 singles stands at 52-35 and she finished her career 21-22 in regular-season SEC matches. Last year, Schofield played a couple matches at the second position after coming back from a bad illness. It was the first and only time in her career she played any position except No. 1.
ITA Rankings Releases
Below is a list of dates when the Intercollegiate Tennis Association will release its rankings.
Jan. 6 - Team/Singles/Doubles
Jan. 29 - Team
Feb. 3 - Team
Feb. 10 - Team
Feb. 19 - Team/Singles/Doubles
Feb. 24 - Team
March 3 - Team/Singles/Doubles
March 10 - Team
March 17 - Team/Singles/Doubles
March 24 - Team
March 31 - Team/Singles/Doubles
April 7 - Team
April 14 - Team/Singles/Doubles
April 21 - Team/Singles/Doubles
April 28 - Team/Singles/Doubles
May 22 - Team (Final)
May 29 - Singles/Doubles (Final)
All-America teams are awarded in tennis for singles and doubles play. No voting takes place, so the teams are decided based on the following criteria:
1. Top 16 seed in NCAA Singles Tournament, or
2. Reach round of 16 in NCAA Singles Tournament, or
3. Finish in top 20 of final ITA rankings
1. Top eight seed in NCAA Doubles Tournament, or
2. Reach quarters of NCAA Doubles Tournament, or
3. Finish in top 10 of final ITA rankings
Two Countries Are Better Than One
While junior Ana Marija Zubori is listed on the Gamecocks' roster as being from Mulhouse, France, she is technically a citizen of Serbia as well. She was born in Novi Sad, Serbia, the hometown of teammate Natasa Vuckovic. Her parents sent her to live in France with her older sister in the '90s because of warring in the former Yugoslavia. Zubori's interesting background prompted her to be named one of Go Gamecocks the Magazine's 10 Most Intriguing People in USC Sports when The State newspaper publication hit the streets for its inaugural issue in summer 2008. Another member of the South Carolina squad also holds citizenship with two countries. Freshman Dijana Stojic is listed on the roster as being from Makarska, Croatia, but she also holds citizenship with Bosnia-Herzegovina. She was born in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and put together an impressive résumé play Fed Cup for the country in 2003 and from 2005 to 2007.
A Popular Gamecock
Junior Ana Marija Zubori is popular and has the proof. Last year, she was chosen as the AgSouth Female Athlete of the Year in an online fan poll on GamecocksOnline.com. During the season, a different student-athlete is selected each week as the AgSouth Athlete of the Week. Toward the end of the academic year, all the weekly winners are compiled and fans are given the opportunity to vote for a male and female athlete of the year. Winning the men's award last year was golfer George Bryan IV. Zubori and Bryan IV were honored at a South Carolina versus Florida baseball game for receiving the nod from the fans. She successfully defended her crown this year by winning the online poll once again with men's basketball's Devan Downey picking up the honor as well. She and Downey were recognized prior to game one of the Vanderbilt series.