March 28, 2005
Auburn, Ala. – For the second straight season, the USC’s men’s tennis team fell just short of victory against the Auburn Tigers. This time, it was Auburn’s Nick Lane downing Carolina freshman Jaime Cuellar at No. 3 singles to hand the Tigers a 4-2 win on Monday morning in Auburn. The match, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, included a 45-minute weather delay, resulting in the teams agreeing not to play the doubles point unless it was necessary to determine a winner.
Auburn (9-5, 1-5 SEC) got off to a quick start in the singles, with Robbert Lathouwers earning the win at No. 4 singles over USC’s Geraldo Knorr 6-3, 6-2. Carolina (14-6, 3-3 SEC) replied almost immediately, when sophomore Dmitry Babenko was pushed to the edge in a first set tiebreaker, before shutting out Tom George in the second set at No. 5 singles. The Gamecocks’ lone senior, Ben Atkinson, was in an even more precarious position in the next match to wrap up. After losing the first set of the No. 6 singles match 6-4, Auburn’s Brett Hunter was on the verge of a win when Atkinson turned the tables with a win in the second set tiebreaker. Much like his teammate at No. 5 singles, Atkinson then easily clinched the final set, defeating Hunter 6-1 to give USC a 2-1 lead. However, it would be the first and only lead of the day for South Carolina, as the Tigers’ Gabor Zoltan-Pelva avenged a loss to Tom Eklund in the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships with a three-set win at No. 1 singles, while USC sophomore Pedro Rodrigues was downed by Alex Schweizer in three sets at No. 2 singles. The final singles match would be at No. 3 singles, and featured Auburn’s Nick Lane and Carolina’s only 20-match winner so far this season, freshman Jaime Cuellar. Lane and Cuellar split the first two sets, and the match rested on a deciding third set. The two were on serve as the set neared its end, but Cuellar was unable to clinch the match with a 6-5 lead, and Lane pulled out a dramatic victory in the tiebreaker. The loss, just the second of the spring for Cuellar (16-2), handed USC its sixth loss of the season and dropped the Gamecocks’ SEC record to 3-3.
South Carolina will now turn its attention to two SEC East rivals that will pay visits to Columbia this weekend. The Tennessee Volunteers will come to the state capital on Friday, April 1 (first serve scheduled for 2 p.m.), and the Georgia Bulldogs come to USC on Sunday, April 3 (first serve scheduled for 1 p.m.). Both matches will take place at the Sam Daniel Tennis Facility.