Jan. 30, 2005
Columbia, S.C. – The 38th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks men’s tennis team won their second match of the weekend on Sunday, defeating the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs, 6-1. USC (2-0, 0-0 SEC) lost just two matches and only dropped three singles sets at the USC Indoor Tennis Facility, to earn their second consecutive 6-1 win, after defeating East Carolina on Saturday by the same score. The match against the Bulldogs, the first ever between the schools, was originally scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, but was postponed to Sunday because of inclement travel conditions for UNCA (0-1, 0-0 Big South).
The doubles matches started off poorly for the Gamecocks, with the first match featuring Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr for USC and Julien Vulliez and Paul Ambrose for UNCA. Vulliez and Ambrose proved to be too much for Rodrigues and Knorr, defeating the pair 8-6. However, Carolina responded perfectly, winning the next seven matches, en route to a convincing 6-1 victory. The highlight of the doubles matches for USC was the pairing of senior Ben Atkinson and sophomore Dmitry Babenko, who defeated Rob Nunnery and Nick Thuell for their second straight 8-1 victory of the season.
In singles play, sophomore Pedro Rodrigues, playing No. 1 for the injured Tom Eklund, easily dispatched of UNCA’s John Rambotas, winning 6-0, 6-2. Rodrigues, ranked No. 110 in the nation by the ITA, has now lost just four games in four sets this season. Also pulling off another easy win, his second of the weekend, was freshman Jaime Cuellar. Cuellar, who defeated Paul Ambrose 6-0, 6-1, has dropped only three games in his four sets this season.
The three longest matches of the day would be the last three. The No. 4 singles match, featuring USC’s Atkinson and UNCA’s Nunnery, would be a hotly contested one, taking over two hours to unfold. The first two sets were close with the two players splitting the sets. However, the third set would be the most dramatic. The players stayed on serve for the first five games, and then the action began. Atkinson won two straight breaks, to take a 5-3 lead, but Nunnery won two straight breaks for himself, taking the lead back, 6-5. Atkinson would have the last word though, breaking Nunnery to send the match to a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker played out the same way as the match had, with both players trading points evenly. The break finally came as Atkinson served up an ace and then forced Nunnery to hit a cross-court forehand that landed barely an inch wide, earning Atkinson a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(7-5) win. The last two matches would play out the same as the No. 4 match, with USC’s Babenko and UNCA’s Branks trading breaks in the No. 5 slot, until Babenko earned a 6-4, 6-4 win, simply overpowering Branks in the end, using his huge overhead winners and tall 6-foot, 3-inch frame to win points at the net. In the day’s final match, which pitted USC’s Adler and UNCA’s Correa, the two players traded breaks and words the entire match, with Correa eventually prevailing 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-4).
The victory over the Bulldogs improved USC’s all-time record against UNC system schools to 19-18 (Asheville, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Wilmington), and also marked Carolina’s 106th all-time win over schools from the state of North Carolina.
The Gamecocks will return to action next Sunday, Feb. 6, against Charlotte and Davidson, with both matches taking place in Charlotte. USC then travels to UNC-Chapel Hill on Thursday, Feb. 10, before returning to Columbia for a triple-header Feb. 12-13. Carolina is scheduled to face Elon at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, the 12th, and to face Wofford and Samford on Sunday, the 13th, beginning at 10 a.m. All three matches will take place at the USC Indoor Tennis Facility.
No. 38 USC vs. UNC-Asheville Results:
Julien Vulliez/Paul Ambrose (UNCA) def. Pedro Rodrigues/Geraldo Knorr 8-6
Ben Atkinson/Dmitry Babenko (USC) def. Rob Nunnery/Nicholas Thuell 8-1
Jaime Cuellar/Adam Adler (USC) def. Adam Branks/Mauricio Correa 8-2
#110 Pedro Rodrigues (USC) def. John Rambotas (UNCA) 6-0, 6-2
Geraldo Knorr (USC) def. Julien Vulliez (UNCA) 6-3, 6-3
Jaime Cuellar (USC) def. Paul Ambrose (UNCA) 6-0, 6-1
Ben Atkinson (USC) def. Rob Nunnery (UNCA) 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(7-5)
Dmitry Babenko (USC) def. Adam Branks (UNCA) 6-4, 6-4
Mauricio Correa (UNCA) def. Adam Adler (USC) 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(10-4)