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Feb. 12, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s tennis team will face its first true test of the season on Monday when it hosts border rival North Carolina at the USC Indoor Facility, beginning at 2 p.m. The contest will be a renewal of one of the most-heated and most-played rivalries in college tennis, as both teams come into the match with unblemished records. The 12th-ranked Gamecocks (6-0, 0-0 SEC) will be looking to move to 7-0 for the fourth time in the last five seasons, while No. 27 UNC (9-0, 0-0 ACC) will be attempting to improve on its best start since 1973.

Scouting the Gamecocks
USC will be hosting the final contest of its seven-match homestand before heading to the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle this coming weekend, Feb. 17-20. Carolina has collected a trio of shutouts thus far, blanking Troy, Wofford and Davidson to open the season. The Gamecocks have been led by the play of senior Geraldo Knorr (ranked 83rd by the ITA) and sophomore Yevgeny Supeko in singles, while senior Tom Eklund and sophomore Jaime Cuellar have dominated in doubles, winning their six matches by a combined, 48-9.

For the Tar Heels
North Carolina comes into Monday’s contest on a tear, having won all nine of its matches in 2006, having defeated its seven unranked foes 49-0. The Tar Heels’ two other wins came against quality opposition, as they downed No. 51 Northwestern, 5-2, and knocked off then-No. 26 Notre Dame, 4-3. Monday’s match will be the first road test of the year for UNC, and is the Tar Heels only match away from Chapel Hill in a 13-match span from Jan. 21-Mar. 13. North Carolina is led by two nationally ranked players: senior Raian Luchici (No. 5) and sophomore Benjamin Carlotti (No. 93). In addition, UNC boasts the country’s No. 1-ranked doubles duo of Luchici and senior Brad Pomeroy.

The Border Rivalry: Is it USC’s turn?
The Gamecocks and Tar Heels own one of the nation’s top rivalries, with the two schools having met every year, but two, since current dual-match format began in 1973. While each school has had a seven-game winning streak in the series (1973-79, UNC; 1985-1991, USC), the series has been a very evenly matched one. North Carolina leads the overall series 19-14, but since the two Carolinas split a pair of matches in 1994, the schools have traded two match winning streaks, culminating with the Tar Heels’ 5-2 win in Chapel Hill last season.

Carolina vs. the ACC
USC will see its schedule strengthen considerably beginning on Monday when they face the Tar Heels, who will be the first of at least four Atlantic Coast Conference opponents Carolina will face this season. The Gamecocks already have matches scheduled against N.C. State (Feb. 25), No. 13 Wake Forest (Feb. 28) and arch-rival No. 25 Clemson (Apr. 12). USC, which is a former member of the ACC (1954-71), could also face No. 38 Florida State, No. 10 Duke and No. 6 Virginia in next weekend’s USTA/ITA National Team Indoors. Carolina holds a 143-75 (.656) all-time record against the ACC’s current membership, including winning records over eight of the 12 schools (Boston College, Clemson, FSU, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, UVA, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest).