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April 5, 2005

Columbia, S.C. – The 22nd-ranked USC men’s tennis team will host in-state rival Clemson on Wednesday afternoon at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center, in Columbia. The Gamecocks (16-6, 5-3 SEC) rejoin the Top 25 this week for the first time since spending eight weeks there last season, ending March 9, 2004. South Carolina is coming off of a weekend of huge upsets, breezing by #17 Tennessee 6-1 on Friday, April 1 and knocking off #8 Georgia 4-3 on Sunday.

Junior Tom Eklund received the SEC Player of the Week award this week, the second time in five weeks he has won the honor, and becomes the first Gamecock to be given the award twice. Eklund is now the second player this season to receive the award twice, and just the seventh player in conference history to receive the honor twice in a career. USC has also put another player in the national singles rankings, with freshman Jaime Cuellar earning his first career ranking, debuting at No. 110 this week.

Carolina comes into the rivalry match-up having won four of its last five matches, while Clemson has lost four straight. USC, led by the play Eklund, Cuellar and the doubles tandem of sophomore Pedro Rodrigues and junior Geraldo Knorr, is 13-3 against the Tigers since 1989. That year was also the last time the Gamecocks dropped consecutive matches to CU (1988 & 1989).

Eklund has played No. 1 singles for USC nearly all season. In that time, he has collected four upsets of Top-20 players, including #13 John Isner of Georgia on Sunday and then-No. 5 Ken Skupski of LSU on March 6. Against Tennessee on Friday, Eklund rallied after losing the first set to #53 Mark Dietrich, and clinched the win for Carolina with a three-set victory over UT’s No. 1 singles player.

Freshman Jaime Cuellar, ranked No. 110, is off to the best start to a career in school history, having collected 24 singles wins on the year so far. Cuellar, a native of El Salvador, began the season on a 14-match winning streak, and has lost just two matches since the beginning of the team season. On Sunday, Cuellar was down 5-3 and three match points in the final singles match against Georgia, but came back to defeat #61 Matic Omerzel in a third set tiebreaker to seal the upset.

The doubles pair of Rodrigues and Knorr is coming off of an incredible weekend, having upset the No. 7 and No. 2 doubles teams in the nation. On Friday, the pair earned their first big win of the year, and handed seventh-ranked Oosthuzien and Rogers their first defeat of the year to clinch the doubles point for USC. Against Georgia, the duo handed Isner and Ruiz their first SEC loss of the season 8-6 to hand Carolina the all-important doubles point.

Fans will be able to follow the match with live stats available on USC’s official website, Carolina will travel to the state of Mississippi this weekend, to take on No. 4 Ole Miss and No. 15 Mississippi State. The match against the Rebels is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (ET) on Friday, April 8. The showdown in Starkville against the Bulldogs will begin at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 10. The Gamecocks return home on Saturday, April 16, for their regular season finale against SEC East rival Florida. The match against the seventh-ranked Gators, which will be Senior Day in Columbia, is set for 2 p.m.