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March 12, 2006

Knoxville, Tenn. – South Carolina’s men’s tennis team suffered another tough Southeastern Conference loss on Sunday, falling, 4-1, to Tennessee in Knoxville. The Gamecocks (8-8, 1-3 SEC) fell to .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001 season (13-13) and suffered their first defeat in a regular season match against the Volunteers (7-3, 2-2) since 2002. USC’s bright spot in the loss came as junior Dmitry Babenko returned from a back injury to pick up a win in his first completed dual match since Jan. 28 against Troy, downing UT’s Adam Hubble at No. 5 singles in straight sets.

The Volunteers took the doubles point off of Carolina to take an early 1-0 lead in the match, as Derek Stephens and Kiril Tcherveniachki won an 8-3 decision over USC’s Adam Adler and Thomas Stoddard at No. 3 doubles and the duo of Bobby Cameron/Kaden Hensel edged Carolina’s Yevgeny Supeko and Pedro Rodrigues, 8-6, on court two. The Gamecocks’ Tom Eklund and Jaime Cuellar were in position to upset the country’s No. 14 doubles tandem of Ben Rogers and Hubble, but the No. 1 doubles contest was suspended at 6-6 after the Volunteers clinched the point.

In singles action, UT stretched its lead to 2-0 with Stephens’ straight set, 6-1, 6-4, win over Adler at No. 6 singles. Babenko put USC back into the match with his win at No. 5 singles, improving his 2006 singles record to 2-0 in completed matches. Tcherveniachki extended the lead to 3-1 with his 6-0, 6-4, defeat of Carolina’s sophomore Supeko at No. 3 singles, and Tennessee clinched the upset with Cameron’s three-set win over USC’s Eklund at No. 1 singles. Cuellar and Rodrigues’ matches were suspended in the third set at Nos. 2 and 4 singles, respectively.

The Gamecocks will step out of conference for their next two matches, a Mar. 18 contest at UNLV and a Mar. 22 home date with Charleston Southern. USC is 2-0 all-time against the Runnin’ Rebels, with the victories coming during the 2003 and 2005 seasons in Las Vegas. Carolina holds a 6-0 advantage all time against the Buccaneers, having defeated CSU every year between 1996 and 2001.