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Jan. 10, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s tennis squad is ranked 12th in the first Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll of 2006, the ITA office announced on Tuesday. The No. 12 ranking is the highest preseason ranking for Carolina since the 1998-99 team opened the season at No. 9. Gamecock senior Geraldo Knorr was also recognized, debuting at No. 82 in the ITA’s singles rankings.

The top-12 ranking ensured the Gamecocks earned a berth in the 2006 ITA National Team Indoors Championships, played in Seattle, Wash., Feb. 17-20. The trip to the Championships is the first for Carolina since the 1999 season, when the Gamecocks also headed cross-country to Seattle.

Knorr, a senior from Florianopolis, Brazil, achieved the first national singles rankings of his career at USC. Knorr and his doubles partner Pedro Rodrigues were ranked as high as No. 23 in the doubles rankings in 2005 and made the NCAA Championships as a tandem.

The Gamecocks have high expectations in 2006, as they return five of six starters from their Sweet Sixteen squad a year ago, and replaced the graduated Ben Atkinson with sophomore transfer Yevgeny Supeko (Texas A&M). Carolina will open 2006 with seven straight home matches, and will not play a true road contest until they travel up Tobacco Road to face the 15th-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Feb. 28.

USC also boasts one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with 12 teams that earned berths in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, five squads that made the Sweet Sixteen, and two national semifinalists (Florida and Ole Miss). The schedule, which also matches the Gamecocks against at least nine of the preseason Top 25 teams in the country, will get no easier with the addition of the National Indoor Championships, where 16 of the nation’s best will contest the first national team title of the year. The Gamecocks are currently slated to face fifth-ranked and defending NCAA National Champion UCLA in the first round on Feb. 17.

“We’re obviously delighted,” said USC Head Coach Kent DeMars. “We are thrilled that our peers think we’re one of the best 12 teams in the nation. We’ve got a good team and a chance to beat some of those teams [in Seattle]. Our players will be anxious to get a chance to show what we’re all about.”

The Southeastern Conference’s led the country with eight of its 12 teams in the Top 25. The Pac-10 and Big 12 conferences both placed five teams in the top third of the national rankings, followed by the ACC with four teams (including top-ranked Virginia) and the Big Ten with two squads.

USC opens the new year with the SEC Coaches’ Indoor Championships, Jan. 20-23 in Lexington, Ky. The tournament is the final individual event of the year until the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships in May. The Gamecocks kick off their 2006 team campaign with a home doubleheader against Troy and Wofford on Jan. 28, beginning at 10 a.m., at the USC Field House, located on the corner of Whaley and Heyward Streets.