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Feb. 9, 2005

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s tennis team will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. on Thursday for a match with rival North Carolina. The match-up, scheduled for 2:30 p.m., marks the 33rd meeting for the two schools, who have played every year but two since 1973. USC (4-0, 0-0 SEC) has already played two matches this week, defeating Davidson and Charlotte on Sunday in Davidson. Thursday’s match against No. 29 UNC (4-2, 0-0 ACC) is the third of six matches in eight days for the Gamecocks.

The two teams have played each other extremely close in recent years, and neither team has won more than two consecutive regular season matches since a six-match USC winning streak from 1985-1991. Since that winning streak, the Tar Heels hold a slight 7-5 margin over the Gamecocks. The home court hasn’t meant much since the end of USC’s winning streak either, as the series is tied 3-3 at Chapel Hill and UNC holds a 4-2 lead in Columbia in that time span.

In the fall, players from the interstate rivals played each other 13 times in singles and doubles, and the two schools split the doubles matches 2-2. The two doubles losses for USC both came at the hands of the No. 9 ranked pair in the nation, senior Geoff Boyd and junior Brad Pomeroy. The Gamecocks’ pair of sophomore Pedro Rodrigues and freshman Thomas Stoddard finished just one break short of the two Tar Heels, losing 8-6 at the Josephine Groot Memorial Tournament in Chapel Hill last October. The next day, junior Tom Eklund and freshman Jaime Cuellar took on Boyd and Pomeroy in the quarterfinals of the tournament, and forced a tiebreak before falling 9-8.

Senior Ben Atkinson, who was on the losing side of the rivalry for the first time last season, boasts the best record among the current USC squad against the Tar Heels in dual match play. Atkinson is a combined 4-1 in singles and doubles since coming to Carolina. His only loss was at No. 6 singles his freshman year, and Atkinson got the only point for the Gamecocks in the 6-1 loss to UNC last season.

South Carolina will return home Thursday night and face Elon at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 and play a doubleheader against Wofford and Samford beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 13. All three matches will take place at the USC Indoor Tennis Facility at the USC Field House. Admission is free. The field house is at the corner of Whaley and Marion, across the street from Eugene Stone Soccer Stadium.