Jan. 19, 2006
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina’s men’s tennis team kicks off the new year at the 2006 Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Indoor Championships Friday Jan. 20-Monday Jan. 23 in Lexington, Ky. USC is sending juniors Pedro Rodrigues and Dmitry Babenko, along with sophomore transfer Yevgeny Supeko.
Rodrigues, a junior from Brasilia, Brazil, is coming off of a successful 2005 dual match season where he won 20 singles matches and partnered with senior Geraldo Knorr to advance to the NCAA Doubles Championships. The junior has been clutch for the Gamecocks during his career, coming up with five dual match-clinching points in singles in the last two years. Along with Knorr, he has also picked up key doubles wins over No. 7 Ockie Oosthuizen and Ben Rogers of Tennessee and then-No. 2 and eventual NCAA Champions John Isner and Antonio Ruiz of Georgia.
Babenko went 14-9 in all singles matches in 2005 and was near-automatic in the middle of the season, winning 10 of 13 singles matches from February to April, including a match-clinching three-set win at No. 4 singles against No. 25 Wake Forest. The Moscow native comes into the 2006 season looking to continue that form in his second year in Columbia.
Supeko is the newest addition to the USC lineup, coming to Columbia as a sophomore transfer from Texas A&M. Supeko, who calls Daytona Beach, Fla. home, went 12-4 in tournament play for the Aggies and compiled a 17-14 overall mark in his one season there. The New Braunfels High (Texas) graduate was highly regarded as a junior player, and played in tournaments all around the world before beginning his collegiate career.
The Championships, which were originally scheduled to be played in New Orleans, La., include players from all 12 of the conference’s teams competing a bracket-style tournament draw. The draw will be released Thursday evening and fans can check on the draws at the University of Kentucky’s official athletic website, www.ukathletics.com.
The SEC Indoor Championships is the final individual event of 2005-06 for the Gamecocks before they begin dual match play Jan. 28 with a doubleheader against Troy (10 a.m.) and Wofford (3 p.m.). The matches are currently slated for the indoor courts at the USC Fieldhouse on the corner of South Marion and Whaley Streets.