Feb. 16, 2006
The South Carolina men’s tennis team will travel Seattle, Wash., to compete in premiere indoor event in collegiate tennis, the 2006 USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships, this weekend The Gamecocks enter the tournament as the No. 11 seed and will face No. 5-seed and SEC foe Mississippi in the opening round at 11 a.m. (ET) on Friday, Feb. 17. Action continues through Monday, Feb. 20. Matches will be played at both the Lloyd Nordstrom Tennis Center and the Seattle Tennis Club.
For matches played at the Nordstrom Tennis Center, live scoring and video is available on the University of Washington’s official athletics web site, www.gohuskies.com. On Feb. 18-19, a live audio broadcast will be available for matches played at the Nordstrom Tennis Center online.
A Look at the Field
The 16-team field was set by taking the highest ranked team from each region and the next seven best teams from around the country. An automatic bid is also extended to the host institution. In order to receive an at-large bid, a team must be ranked in the preseason Top 12 by the ITA. The field is highlighted by 2004 NCAA Champion and 2005 National Team Indoor Champion Baylor. USC was the third team to receive a bid from the Mideast Region. Virginia captured the region’s automatic and was joined to Duke and South Carolina. The Southeastern Conference once again solidified its status as the best men’s tennis conference in the nation, placing five teams in the field, including No. 1-seed Florida, No. 3-seed Georgia, Ole Miss and No. 10-seed LSU.
Carolina’s National Team Indoor History
The bid to the National Team Indoors Championships is South Carolina’s first since the 1999 season. The Gamecocks knocked off eighth-ranked Pepperdine, 4-3, before falling to No. 4 Ole Miss and eventual NCAA Team Champion Stanford in that tournament. Carolina has made nine previous appearances at the Championships, going 11-16 in all matches, with wins over schools such as Pepperdine, Southern Cal, UCLA, LSU and Harvard.
Scouting the Gamecocks
South Carolina enters the weekend with a 6-1 record and ranked No. 10 in the country. Carolina has collected a trio of shutouts thus far, blanking Troy, Wofford and Davidson to open the season. The Gamecocks’ lone loss came to unbeaten and No. 27 North Carolina, 4-2, on Monday in Columbia. 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 Rebels
The No. 5 Ole Miss Rebels (4-0, 0-0 SEC) are coming off of a 2005 season when they won their second straight regular season SEC title and advanced to the NCAA Final Four. The conference coaches unanimously picked Mississippi to win the SEC West Division in 2006. The Rebels are led by four nationally-ranked singles players, No. 22 Eric Claesson, No. 26 Erling Tveit, No. 43 Juan Pablo Di Cesare and 83rd-ranked Bram ten Berge.
Carolina vs. Ole Miss
The series between the Gamecocks and the Rebels is a brief one, but in that span Ole Miss holds a 12-7 lead in the series, but outside of Oxford, the two sides have been nearly equal. In all matches not played on the Rebels home courts, Carolina trails by just a single match in the series (6-5), and is 1-1 against Ole Miss on neutral courts. The two schools have not met on a neutral court since the 1999 season. The Rebels downed USC, 5-2, at the Indoor Championships in Seattle, but USC got a win when it mattered most, upsetting fourth-ranked Ole Miss, 4-3, in the SEC Quarterfinals in Gainesville, Fla.
Despite years of dominance on the national men’s tennis scene, the SEC has never been able to capture the title at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors. With six teams in the field in 2006, including three of the top five seeds, this could be the year the nation’s best men’s tennis conference finally breaks through and wins it all.
Carolina Cracks Top 10
South Carolina men’s tennis team achieved yet another milestone on Tuesday, entering the Top 10 in the latest Fila Collegiate Tennis Poll. This week will be the 21st week Carolina has spent in the nation’s top 10 since appearing in the 1989 Final Four. The Gamecocks began the season at No. 12.
DeMars On Carolina’s Selection to the National Team Indoors
“We’re obviously delighted to play in the National Team Indoors. (The tournament) selects the best teams in the country and we are thrilled that our peers think we’re one of the best 12 teams in the nation. Our players knew that we were going to be close to making the cut, and I’m sure they’ll be excited about it, especially with three free matches [not counting against the NCAA limit of 25] that can’t do anything except help you. None of them have ever been there before and it’ll be a real delight and challenge to play in a great location like Seattle. We think we’ve got a good team and a chance to beat some of those guys up there. Our players will be anxious to get another chance to show what we’re all about.”
Following the trip to Seattle, the Gamecocks return to Columbia for their final three non-conference matches. Carolina hosts Charleston Southern on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. The Gamecocks then play back-to-back matches against a pair of teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference. North Carolina State visits Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 25, for a Noon start. USC plays its first road match of the year on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Wake Forest. USC kicks off its 2006 conference slate with a pair of home matches against No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 5 Ole Miss on March 3 and 5.