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May 4, 2005

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina men’s tennis squad received their 12th straight NCAA Tournament bid on Wednesday, and will travel to Stillwater, Okla. for the first two rounds of play May 13-15. The 19th-ranked Gamecocks (18-9, 6-5 SEC) will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the first round next Friday, May 13. Carolina has made 16 of the last 19 NCAA fields and has not missed the tournament since the 1993 season.

The Gamecocks will face the Sooners in the first round, and the winner will advance to the second round to face the winner of 13th-seeded and host Oklahoma State and Southwest Missouri State. Carolina has never faced Oklahoma, but they hold a 10-9 all-time advantage in matches against current Big 12 members. This year’s tournament marks the fourth time a USC squad has traveled away from the eastern United States to play in the first and second rounds, and just the second time they have visited the Midwest.

Carolina is coming off of one of its most successful seasons since they joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992. Their 18 regular season wins are the most for the Gamecocks since the 1994 season when they picked up 19. The six conference wins are an SEC best for USC, while their six upsets of Top 25 opposition are also a school record.

The Gamecocks have been led by the play of junior Tom Eklund and freshman Jaime Cuellar in singles, and the tandem of Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr in doubles.

Eklund is 35th in the latest ITA national singles ranking, and with his 21 singles wins, has his second consecutive 20-win singles year. The native of Hollviken, Sweden joined the ranks of Carolina’s elite past players this year, when he became just the fourth Gamecock ever named to the All-SEC First Team, and the first Gamecock to garner SEC Player of the Week honors twice in a single season. Eklund is looking to become the 15th USC player to make the NCAA Singles Tournament field, which will be announced tomorrow, May 5.

Cuellar has had one of the most successful seasons ever for a Carolina freshman, picking up 25 singles wins and 22 doubles wins, the highest combined victories total ever for a true freshman at USC. The El Salvadorian native ran off a 14-match unbeaten streak to begin 2005, and has earned the match-clinching point in some of Carolina’s biggest wins this season.

Knorr and Rodrigues, currently 22nd in the ITA doubles rankings, are likely to get their own shot at an NCAA title if they make the 2005 NCAA Doubles Championships. Should they receive a bid tomorrow, they would be the sixth Carolina pair to ever make the 32-team field. While the pair is 8-10 overall this year, four of the wins have come against ranked opposition, including crucial doubles point-clinching wins over then-No. 7 Ockie Oosthuizen and Ben Rogers of Tennessee on April 1 in Columbia, and then-No. 2 John Isner and Antonio Ruiz of Georgia two days later.

Stay tuned to for the latest on tomorrow’s NCAA singles and doubles tournaments announcements, as well as more information on Carolina’s first round match-up with Oklahoma. USC Head Coach Kent DeMars will also be available for a live online chat next week to talk about the team, his perspectives on their season, and his outlook for the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Two or three of the Gamecock players may be available as well. No time or date has been set yet, but more information will be available soon.