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March 8, 2005

Las Vegas, Nevada – As the USC men’s tennis team continued its preparations on Tuesday to face non-conference foe UNLV, they received some encouraging news. The weekly ITA national poll was released Tuesday afternoon and the Gamecocks (11-3, 2-0 SEC) made the largest jump of any team in the nation this season, rocketing up 25 places to No. 30, following their upsets of then-No. 38 Arkansas and then-No. 9 LSU, last weekend in Columbia. Carolina, who has now upset Arkansas and LSU in Columbia twice in three years, is off to its best start in the SEC in school history. Junior Tom Eklund, who pulled off the biggest upset by a USC singles player in almost two years, defeating fifth-ranked Ken Skupski of LSU on Sunday, moved up 22 places in the bi-weekly rankings into a tie for 45th with two other players.

The match against UNLV is just the second time that Carolina and the Runnin’ Rebels have met. The only previous match resulted in a 6-1 Gamecock win in Las Vegas during the 2003 season. USC had little trouble in the desert, losing more than four games in just two of their five singles wins, and sweeping the doubles competition. UNLV’s only ranked singles player, Joel Kielbowicz, who is 91st in this week’s rankings, faced off against current South Carolina junior Geraldo Knorr in No. 6 singles in that meeting, which Knorr won 6-3, 6-0. The Runnin’ Rebels do feature a highly ranked doubles team however, in the No. 14 pair of Aviram Salomon and Henner Nehles. The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern Time at the Fertitta Tennis Complex in Las Vegas.

Carolina junior Eklund, a native of Hollviken, Sweden, is now 14-7 on the year after his upset of Skupski and win over Arkansas Adrians Zguns last Friday. While Eklund went 2-1 last week, his lone loss was to No. 18 Jose Muguruza of Georgia Tech in USC’s 4-0 defeat by the Yellow Jackets, last Tuesday, March 1. Eklund’s win over Zguns, gave Carolina the lead for good in their 5-2 win over the Razorbacks in both teams SEC opener. Two days later, Eklund played his best match of the year in knocking off Skupski 7-5, 7-6(4). The upset was important for more than just Eklund, as the win tied the match at three all and completed USC’s comeback from 2-0 and four first sets down against the ninth-ranked Tigers.

USC Head Coach Kent DeMars on last weekend’s matches:

“What was really good [against LSU] was we lost the doubles point and four first sets in singles. That’s when you find out the character of your team. That’s exactly what happened. You don’t want people to come in and beat you in your house. We were able to come back against a Top 10 team. Even against Arkansas we had to come back and win it. That tells you something. [Friday vs. Arkansas] showed we could play. [Sunday vs. LSU] said we can play with anyone.”

Coach DeMars on starting off 2-0 in the conference and having to go on the road this week:

“It gives us a big confidence boost. You can get beat up pretty bad by a Top 10 team and we didn’t. We beat them. Going on the road isn’t easy. The thing is, what I told the guys is, `You’re pretty good now and it shows. Now my expectations are going to be higher.'”

USC will travel from Las Vegas to Lexington, KY on Friday to take on No. 28 Kentucky in their first divisional match and first road match in the SEC this season. The week will wrap up when the Gamecocks host No. 40 Vanderbilt on Sunday, March 13. The match against the Commodores is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center on the campus of Carolina.