Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+

March 13, 2005


Columbia, S.C. – The USC men’s tennis team dropped its second consecutive match on Sunday, falling 4-3 to Vanderbilt at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center in Columbia. Carolina (12-5, 2-2 SEC) won the doubles point, and overcame a 3-1 deficit after three singles matches to tie it at 3-3, but lost the match at No. 5 singles in a third-set tiebreaker to drop to .500 in conference play. The bright spot for the 30th-ranked Gamecocks was at No. 4 singles, where freshman Jaime Cuellar won his 20th match of the season and improved to 14-1 this spring.

The Gamecocks hit the courts running to win two of three doubles matches and the doubles point for just the second time in their last six matches. The doubles did not start off well for Carolina though, as sophomore Pedro Rodrigues and junior Geraldo Knorr fell to the 27th-ranked duo of Scott Brown and Jason Pinsky 8-3. USC would even the doubles score when junior Tom Eklund and freshman Jaime Cuellar earned three service breaks to defeat Matt Lockin and Nathan Sachs 8-4 at No. 2 doubles. The point-clinching win would come at No. 3 doubles when senior Ben Atkinson and sophomore Dmitry Babenko came from behind to edge Ryan Preston and Jordan Magarik 9-7 on court three.

The Commodores would fight back in the singles competition, winning three of the first four matches to take a 3-2 lead. VU’s 67th-ranked Scott Brown was able to get Vandy on the board with his 6-4, 6-1 upset of 45th-ranked Tom Eklund at No.1 singles. Brown and Eklund were neck and neck on serve the entire first set until Brown earned a break to win the set 6-4. Brown was able to break Eklund to 3-1 in the second set an never looked back to complete the upset. On court three, Pinsky was able to pull off a straight-set 6-3, 6-3 win over Carolina’s Knorr to give Vandy their first lead at 2-1. The Commodores would extend their lead to 3-1 when Andy Mack defeated Carolina’s Atkinson 7-5, 6-1 on court six. USC would pull within one when Rodrigues won his second straight singles match, defeating Lockin 7-6(1), 6-2 at No. 2 singles. The first set was disasters for both players’ service breaks as the two traded eight breaks in their first ten games, and each held serve just twice the entire set. Rodrigues appeared to figure out his serve in the second set, and was broken just once while breaking Lockin three times en route to the 6-1 second set win.

The match would come down to Nos. 4 and 5 singles, where USC’s Cuellar and Babenko faced off with Sachs and Preston respectively. Both courts split sets to send the deciding matches into third sets. Both Carolina players carried the momentum into the third sets, Cuellar winning his second set 6-2 after losing in a first-set tiebreaker and Babenko coming back from a 6-3 first set loss to take the second set 6-4. Cuellar would tie up the match at three all when his overhead slam was returned out of bounds by Sachs to give Cuellar a 6-2 third set win. It moves Cuellar’s singles record to 20-7 on the year and 14-1 this spring. Prior to his loss at Kentucky on Friday, the El Salvadorian native had won 14 straight matches, dating back to the consolation bracket of the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships in January. For the second consecutive home contest, the match would come down to a third set tiebreaker in the final singles match. Carolina’s rally would fall just short however, as Preston would come back from four points down in the tiebreaker to clinch No. 5 singles and the match for Vanderbilt 7-6(5).

The Gamecocks will take a week off before returning to the courts on Tuesday, March 22 when they host 23rd-ranked Wake Forest. Carolina leads the all-time series with the Demon Deacons 22-4, and has lost just once in the last ten years. However, that loss came in Winston-Salem, N.C. last season, when USC fell to their ACC rivals 4-2 on March 14, 2004. The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center. The courts are located on Heyward St. adjacent to Sarge Frye Field. The match is open to the public and admission is free.