June 5, 2009
2008-09 Final Notes | Head Coach Arlo Elkins
#1 singles, #2 doubles
Ana Marija Zubori
#2 singles, #1 doubles
#3 singles, #3 doubles
#4 singles, #1 doubles
#5 singles, #2 doubles
#6 singles, #3 doubles
It is all about where a team finishes, not where it starts, and the Gamecocks finished as strong as they ever have in 2009. After sitting at a mere 7-7 in the middle of the season and falling to 40th in the ITA rankings, South Carolina finished the season by reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1982. The Gamecocks narrowly missed making the Final Four after suffering a 4-3 setback to Georgia in the quarterfinals, further proof of just how well the team was playing at the end of the season. South Carolina was sent to Knoxville, Tenn., for the first and second rounds of the tournament and upended Wake Forest easily in the first round for the opportunity to play 10th-seeded and ranked Tennessee in the round of 32. After five-plus hours, the Gamecocks escaped with a 4-3 win to make the round of 16 for the first time since 1999. In their first match in College Station, Texas, they posted a 4-0 win against Washington to reach the quarterfinals and solidify themselves as the "Cinderella Team" of 2009.
Junior Ana Marija Zubori went 4-0 in the team portion of the NCAA Championships with victories against Wake Forest, Tennessee, Washington and Georgia. For her career, Zubori is also a perfect 6-0 with all six victories coming at No. 2 singles. The Gamecocks' doubles teams at positions two and three also posted 4-0 records in the NCAA team tourney to help clinch the doubles point each time. Gira Schofield and Miljana Jocic played the No. 2 spot while Suzanna Mansour and Dijana Stojic secured court three.
The Gamecocks have made 19 appearances in the NCAA Tournament in the event's 28-year history. South Carolina owns an all-time record of 19-19 in the tournament. South Carolina's best showing came in the first tourney in 1982 when it reached the quarterfinals after defeating Florida and 2009 when it fell 4-3 to Georgia in the quarters. South Carolina has made a total of six Sweet 16 appearances, coming in 2009, 1999, 1995, 1990, 1983, and 1982.
Junior Ana Marija Zubori recorded 23 dual match victories this season, making her the first Gamecock since 1995 to win at least 20 in one season. It also marked the most dual wins by a Gamecock since Biljana Mirkovic had the same number in 1987. An interesting note, Mirkovic coached Zubori at one point during Zubori's junior career prior to attending South Carolina. Rita Winebarger holds the record for most dual wins in a season with 31 in 1985. Second place belongs to Diane Commons with 24 in 1985 and Mirkovic and Zubori are now tied for third.
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 quarterfinals in 2009.
Senior Gira Schofield became the first player in school history to earn four consecutive bids to the NCAA Singles Championship in 2009. She was joined in the singles tournament by junior Ana Marija Zubori, who made her first appearance. Schofield made the second round and lost a tough three-set battle in the second round to LSU's Megan Falcon, while Zubori was beaten by the tournament's No. 2 seed Julia Cohen of Miami (Fla.) in the first round. Zubori also competed in the doubles championship with Natasa Vuckovic and the duo fell to the No. 1 seed in the tourney in the first round. It marked the first time since 2002 South Carolina competed in both individual tournaments in the same year.
South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins captured his 400th career victory when the Gamecocks defeated Washington in the NCAA Sweet 16 to reach the Elite Eight. 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 14 times.
The Gamecocks began the year ranked No. 33 in the ITA rankings and finished at 17th, their highest finish since 2002 when the team was 16th. It marked the 14th top-25 finish for head coach Arlo Elkins in his 26 seasons as head coach. In examining the preseason top-50 of the ITA rankings, South Carolina's jump of 16 places was the best of any team. Below is a look at the biggest jumps from start to finish among the top 50.
|1.||South Carolina ||33||17||16|
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. 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.
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.
Junior Ana Marija Zubori pulled off something that had never been done at South Carolina this season when she finished the season ranked in singles and doubles for the third year in a row. A handful of Gamecocks had ended the season ranked in singles and doubles in consecutive years but none ever pulled it off three straight times. In fact, no player in school history had ever been ranked in doubles at season's end three times either. Senior Gira Schofield also pulled off the feat in doubles this season when she and Miljana Jocic snuck in the final rankings. Zubori completed her freshman year ranked 108th in singles and 40th in doubles, she was 73rd in singles and 34th in doubles in 2008, and she improved to 43rd in singles and 27th for doubles this past season.
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.
In addition to being the first player in school history to earn All-SEC honors four times and reach the NCAA Singles Championship four consecutive years, Gira Schofield accomplished another first by becoming the first Gamecock to earn a national singles ranking at season's end four years in a row. As a freshman in 2006, she finished 54th, improved to 53rd in 2007, finished 40th as a junior and came in at 33rd as a senior. Her final ranking of No. 33 as a senior was the best finish for a Gamecock since 2000 when current assistant coach Katarina Petrovic ended the year 29th. Schofield also snuck in the final doubles rankings for 2009 with Miljana Jocic at No. 72 to join Ana Marija Zubori as one of the first players in school history to post a doubles ranking at season's end three times. Schofield was 40th in 2007 and 34th in 2008 when she and Zubori combined to form South Carolina's top duo.
Senior Gira Schofield and junior Ana Marija Zubori ended the season ranked 33rd and 43rd in singles, while Zubori and senior Natasa Vuckovic were 27th in doubles and Schofield and Miljana Jocic placed 72nd. Vuckovic and Zubori were ranked the entire spring, whereas Schofield and Jocic were unranked until the final rankings in May. It marked the most ranked players for South Carolina since 2002 when three Gamecocks made the singles list and two doubles teams achieved a national ranking. With Schofield and Zubori both finishing in the top 50, it was the first time since 1987 that multiple Gamecocks earned final singles rankings in the top 50 and only the fourth time it has happened in school history.
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.
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.
With an 84-24 career singles record, junior Ana Marija Zubori has a 77.8 percent winning percentage that currently ranks as the fifth best in school history.
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.
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.
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 was no stranger to three-set matches this season and she was quite good when it got pushed the distance with an impressive 10-3 record. Her 10 wins tied the school record for one season held by Kathy Boyanovich (2000-01) and Nathalie Rodriguez (1989-90).
Junior Ana Marija Zubori played some outstanding tennis this season while taking on some of the best players in the country. At 31-7 overall, she owned an impressive record of 15-4 versus ranked players. In 2008-09, Zubori defeated players ranked 23rd, 36th, 37th, 40th (2x), 42nd, 43rd, 52nd, 55th, 70th, 71st, 73rd, 78th, 96th and 117th at the time of the matches. Four of her seven losses came against players with a higher national ranking than her when they played.
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. 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.
The Georgia Bulldogs were picked as the overall champion in the 2009 SEC Preseason Coaches Poll. In 2008, 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.
Overall Champion: Georgia (11), Arkansas (1)
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.
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 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.
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.
Senior Gira Schofield ended her career ranked among the top 10 in three statistical categories for South Carolina. Her 89 victories in singles ranks seventh on the all-time list, while her 81 doubles wins is fourth. Her 170 combined wins between singles and doubles is the fifth-most in school history.
Senior Natasa Vuckovic ended her career ranked among the top five in three statistical categories for South Carolina. Her 96 victories in singles ranks fourth on the all-time list, while her 77 doubles wins is fifth. Her 173 combined wins between singles and doubles is the fourth-most in school history.
With one season of eligibility remaining, Ana Marija Zubori is likely to leave her named etched all throughout the records book at South Carolina. 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. She equaled that number in 2008-09 to become only the second player in school history to post multiple 30-win seasons. With an 84-24 career record for singles, Zubori already ranks 12th in school history in terms of victories and by recording at least 20 in her senior year she will take over sole possession of second place. Zubori can also become just the fourth Gamecock to surpass the 100-win plateau. Equaling the school record held by Rita Winebarger will be a tall order, as 43 wins are needed to do so. Zubori is 14th in doubles wins with a 61-42 record and she has already cracked the top 10 in combined victories thanks to a 145-66 slate that ranks 10th.
Players on 2008-09 roster listed in bold
|Career Singles Wins|
|Career Doubles Wins|
|Career Combined Wins|
||Ana Marija Zubori
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 reached the round of 16 three times. Below is a look at the current streaks.
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.
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.
As is the case in most years, the Southeastern Conference was strong from top to bottom. All 12 teams finished ranked among the top 75 and 11 made the NCAA Tournament with eight advancing beyond the first round. Georgia reached the Final Four of NCAAs, while South Carolina made the quarterfinals as well. Florida and Arkansas were among the Sweet 16. Georgia led the way in the final ITA national rankings at No. 3 followed by Tennessee (10), Florida (14), Arkansas (15), South Carolina (17), Ole Miss (21), Vanderbilt (22), LSU (24), Kentucky (25), Alabama (26), Auburn (35) and Mississippi State (55).
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. With her win against Washington in the round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament, Zubori reached the 30-win plateau for the second time in her career after doing it her freshman year. Rita Winebarger is the only other Gamecock in school history to have multiple 30-win seasons during her career. Winebarger did in three times between 1985 and 1988.
Senior Gira Schofield 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 was a consistent winner for the Gamecocks year after year. Her career record at No. 1 singles was 53-36 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.
Gamecocks Natasa Vuckovic and Miljana Jocic will represent their home country of Serbia at the 2009 World University Games hosted in Belgrade, Serbia. This year marks the 25th year of the games and will feature around 7,000 athletes--students from 170 countries--who will compete in 15 sports and 208 disciplines in more than 60 venues. The World University Games, which take place over July 1-12, represent the most comprehensive sports competition in the world right after the Olympics. To be eligible for play, participants must have been born between Jan. 1, 1981, and Dec. 31, 1991.
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
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.
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.