Sept. 13, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- First-year South Carolina women's tennis head coach Kevin Epley will lead the Gamecocks in their first tournament of the season at the UVa Fall Invitational beginning Friday at the Snyder Tennis Center in Charlottesville, Va. Play starts each day at 9 a.m. and the tournament concludes Sunday.
This year, nine teams will join the host Cavaliers in the three-day individual tournament. In addition to South Carolina, Furman, Marshall, UNC Greensboro, Old Dominion, VCU, Wake Forest, William & Mary and Winthrop will all send players to Charlottesville for the event.
The tournament consists of 16-player singles draws and 16-team doubles draws. Friday's schedule features one round of doubles followed by two rounds of singles. Saturday is slated for two rounds of doubles followed by one round of singles. Sunday's play will be the final round of doubles followed by the final round of singles.
For Epley, while wins will be important for the team's overall confidence, he is looking at far more than just the individual players' records at the tournament.
"Wins are nice, but I'm really looking at our character," Epley said. "From a coaching perspective, we kind of run a developmental program here, and I've been watching the tendencies of each of the players and what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. After these first two weeks of tournaments, we're going to start working on those individual things that we need to work on that they're going to need to improve for the spring; technically, tactically, mentally, emotionally.
"I'm really going to see what their games are -- everyone has a slightly different game style, different tendencies -- and I'm already seeing some major improvement, particularly in the doubles with some of the things they're doing and we're just going to continue looking to build. This will give me a good base point to see what we need to work on to get the best results in the shortest amount of time."
Five members of the Gamecocks' squad are set to compete in Charlottesville, headlined by senior Jaklin Alawi. She returns as the lone ranked player for South Carolina in the preseason ITA rankings at No. 63 for singles. Alawi was ranked as high as 33rd last season in singles and 37th in doubles. She was named the team's MVP a year ago and earned second-team All-SEC honors while also being tabbed the ITA Carolina Region Player to Watch.
Fellow senior Josefin Andersson will also be in action this weekend. Andersson played in a limited capacity in singles for the Gamecocks during the spring but was a huge part of its doubles teams. She and junior Katerina Popova comprised the team's most successful duo last season going 17-9 together overall and 11-5 in dual matches on court three. Andersson tied for the team lead in doubles wins as an individual with Alawi thanks to her 22-11 mark.
Popova will also make her first appearance of the fall at the UVa Fall Invite after leading the team in dual match singles wins in 2012. Her 16-7 mark came mostly playing at the No. 4 position, where she was 13-6. Popova finished second on the team in overall singles wins with a 22-12 record. She amassed over 20 victories in doubles as well, finishing 21-12.
Two newcomers to the Gamecocks' roster will also play this weekend with freshman Ximena Siles Luna and sophomore Alex Martin. Luna hails from Lima, Peru, and enjoyed a great deal of success on the International Tennis Federation Junior Circuit, achieving a world ranking as high as No. 167 while winning multiple ITF events over her career. Martin, originally from Mt. Pleasant, S.C., spent her freshman year playing for the Texas Longhorns. She was a three-time state champion in singles and doubles from 2008 to 2010 before heading to Austin, Texas.
Following the UVa Invitational, the Gamecocks will travel to the Upstate to compete in the Furman Fall Classic in Greenville, S.C., over Sept. 21-23.
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