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Jan. 15, 2005

New Orleans, La. – The USC men’s tennis team continued competition Saturday morning at the SEC Indoor Coaches Championships in New Orleans, La. Gamecocks junior Tom Eklund advanced to the Round of 16 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Auburn’s Gabor Zoltan-Pelva. The victory was Eklund’s fourth straight singles win and his seventh win in his last nine matches.

Eklund, who is the Gamecocks No. 1 player this season, improved his career singles record to 43-23 and moved to 2-1 against Auburn. Zoltan, who is slated as Auburn’s number one seed this season, suffered his first career defeat to a USC player. Zoltan finished last season ranked sixth in the nation by the ITA and remained sixth in the 2004-05 preseason poll.

“It’s important to establish a player at the top of your lineup and to give him confidence playing other schools’ No. 1’s,” said USC Head Coach Kent DeMars.

Eklund, who went 5-0 at the No. 1 position last season, will take on Kentucky’s Alex Hume in the Round of 16. Hume upset 28th-ranked and sixth-seeded Matic Omerzel of Georgia.

Carolina’s other two singles competitors, senior Ben Atkinson and freshman Jaime Cuellar, who were knocked out of the tournament yesterday, will compete in the optional consolation bracket.

“Ben is coming off shoulder surgery from last May, and it’s important to get him back playing and ready for the season,” said DeMars, “Jaime, on the other hand, is a freshman who went up against a great player Friday [MSU’s Phillipe Frayssinoux], and will gain invaluable experience playing in the consolation bracket.”

Round of 16 play will begin Saturday afternoon, after the completion of the entire singles and doubles second round. The consolation bracket will begin Satuday evening. The 2005 SEC Indoor Championships will conclude Sunday evening.

The Gamecocks are scheduled to open their 2005 team season next Sunday, Jan. 23, in Columbia, against Elon University.