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March 5, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina’s men’s tennis team dropped their first Southeastern Conference match of the year on Sunday, falling, 7-0, to fifth-ranked Ole Miss in Columbia. The Gamecocks (8-6, 1-1 SEC), who are still without two key starters, were unable to secure the doubles point against the Rebels for the first time since the 2003 season, and couldn’t overcome the deficit for what would’ve been their third straight upset of a Top 30 team, after knocking off No. 13 Wake Forest and No. 27 Mississippi State earlier this week.

Doubles started off well for the Gamecocks as senior Tom Eklund and sophomore Jaime Cuellar picked up their 30th career win as a tandem with an 8-4 victory over Bram ten Berge and Jakob Klaeson at No. 2 doubles. After the Rebels evened the point with their win at No. 3 doubles, the point came down to a battle of ranked pairs on court one.

Carolina’s 47th-ranked duo of senior Geraldo Knorr and sophomore Yevgeny Supeko trailed 7-5 and love-30, but Supeko hit an ace in the far corner of the deuce service box and the Gamecocks rattled off four straight points to close within one, 7-6. After the Rebels’ Eric Claesson and Erling Tveit, ranked 35th in the latest Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings, won three straight points of their own, Knorr and Supeko pulled within one point of deuce, but Knorr’s forehand return of Tveit’s serve clipped the net and Mississippi became just the fourth team to take the doubles point off of USC in 14 matches this season.

The Rebels extended their lead to 2-0 with Jakob Klaeson’s win at No. 5 singles over USC senior Adam Adler. Ole Miss would then put the match out of Carolina’s reach with Ahmed El Tabakah’s straight set, 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 6 singles and the defending regular season SEC Champions sealed their first conference win of the season with Erling Tveit’s 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles over Tom Eklund.

The Gamecocks leave the Capital City this weekend for their first taste of road play in SEC play this year, as they head to top-ranked Georgia and Tennessee on Friday and Sunday, respectively. USC knocked off the then-eighth ranked Bulldogs in Columbia last year, 4-3, before taking out then-No. 17 Tennessee, 6-1, two days later. The wins sparked Carolina to a 4-2 finish to the season, a record that propelled them to a school-best fourth seed in the 2005 SEC Tournament.