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Feb. 26, 2005


Columbia, S.C. – The Carolina men’s tennis team suffered its first home loss of the season Saturday, falling to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 5-2, at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (9-2, 0-0 SEC) were swept in the doubles matches for the first time this season, and never recovered, losing four of the first five singles matches to the Islanders (3-3, 1-0 Southland).

In the doubles matches, Carolina got off to 3-1 leads in all three matches, but could not hang on, and the Gamecocks lost just their second doubles point of the season. By far the best doubles match was between Carolina’s duo of Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr, and Corpus Christi’s Javier Bacaicoa and Jeremy Blandin. Rodrigues and Knorr led nearly the entire match, until the Islander duo broke the Gamecocks to take a 7-6 lead on the way to a 9-7 win at No. 1 doubles. On the next court over, Jaime Cuellar and Tom Eklund kept the match tight after relinquishing the lead at 4-3, and never trailed by more than a single game before dropping the final game to Andrey Kumantsov and Goncalo Figuieredo at the No. 2 slot.

Once again in singles, the final scores did not do justice to the quality of the matches. At No. 1 singles, Carolina’s Tom Eklund and the Islander’s Blandin played a tight first set that was the final first to be completed and took an hour and fifteen minutes to play. Eklund led by as much as 4-1, before Blandin staged a comeback, finally taking the lead at 6-5, and pulling out a 7-5 win. On court two, Rodrigues dropped the first set 6-3, but played hard in the second set, as he and Kumantsov were tied at five different points in the set, before the Islanders’ sophomore pulled out a 7-5 second set win, giving Corpus Christi a 3-0 lead in the match. The Islanders clinched the match when Rivas defeated Knorr in three sets, at No. 3 singles, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Carolina’s bright spots came at Nos. 4 and 5 singles, where Jaime Cuellar and Dmitry Babenko earned wins respectively. Cuellar remained unbeaten this spring and picked up his 10th win in dual matches, downing Figueredo 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. On court five, Babenko earned his fifth win in six matches this spring, coming from a set down to defeat Maxim Godin 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. On court number six, Gamecock senior Ben Atkinson won his first set with Bacaicoa 6-2, before losing in two straight set tiebreakers, 7-6(8-6) and 7-6(6-2).

Four singles matches on Saturday were decided in three sets. That is the most three-set matches for Carolina since their match against Kentucky in Columbia on March 5, 2004. It is the third time in three seasons that USC has had a match with that many singles matches decided in three sets. Atkinson has been involved in all three ofthose matches, and ironically has played No. 6 singles in all three as well (2-1).

The Gamecocks will return to the court on Tuesday afternoon, March 1, when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The match against Georgia Tech, Carolina’s final match before the start of the SEC season, is set to begin at 2 p.m. USC returns to Columbia to begin the conference portion of their schedule on Friday, March 4, when they host Arkansas at 2 p.m. Carolina will wrap up the week at home against LSU on Sunday, March 6, at 10 a.m.