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March 30, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina’s men’s tennis team will play host to SEC West foes Auburn and Alabama this weekend at the Sam Daniel Tennis Facility on USC’s campus. The Gamecocks (9-11, 1-5 SEC) will take on the Tigers (9-6, 3-3) in a 2 p.m. (ET) contest on Friday afternoon, while the Crimson Tide (9-8, 2-4) visit Columbia on Sunday afternoon in a match scheduled for 1 p.m. (ET).

Scouting the Gamecocks
Carolina is coming off of two tough losses on the road last weekend, falling, 7-0, at LSU on March 24 and dropping a 4-0 decision to Arkansas in Fayetteville two days later. Injuries have plagued the Gamecocks all season long, as the team has played just a single match with its entire top six in the singles lineup (vs. Troy, 1/28). Five Carolina players, including three seniors, have not played in at least one match due to injury or illness this season, and those five have combined to miss 32 dual matches thus far in 2006.

For The Opposition
Auburn comes into Friday’s match sitting in a three-way tie for fifth place in the SEC, while the Crimson Tide are in the eighth spot, a match back of the Tigers. Neither team has been able to pull a big upset yet in 2006, with Alabama’s best win coming over a Top 40 Colorado squad. Both teams’ best conference wins have come at the expense of Tennessee. With USC senior Geraldo Knorr out of the lineup due to injury, there will be just one nationally-ranked singles player on the courts this weekend, as Alabama has junior Joseph Jung (No. 101) at the top of its lineup.

The Series
The Gamecocks’ all-time series with Alabama and Auburn have been very similar since they began in 1977 and 1979, respectively. Though Carolina currently trails in both series (11-15 vs. Alabama, 9-12 vs. AU), both the Crimson Tide and Tigers have gotten the majority of their wins in the last seven seasons, as USC dominated the two sides prior to joining the SEC in 1992. While the last time Carolina downed Auburn was in 2002, the Gamecocks can make it two in a row over Alabama if they pick up a win on Sunday, after defeating the Tide, 6-1, in Tuscaloosa last season.

Home Sweet Home
South Carolina’s home court advantage should come in handy this weekend against Auburn and Alabama, as the two schools have combined to go just 1-8 in true road contests in 2006. USC has long enjoyed the benefit of its home courts, and coming into this weekend has posted an incredible 388-107 (.784) mark in the Capital City since dual match play began in 1973. With last Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Charleston Southern, the Gamecocks moved to 8-3 at home this season and guaranteed their 33rd winning home record in 34 years of play. Carolina has suffered just one losing season in Columbia, when it posted a 3-5 mark during the 1988 campaign.

Up Next
The Gamecocks will host their final home match of 2006 next Friday, April 7, when they take on 20th-ranked Kentucky at 2 p.m, on the courts of the Sam Daniels Tennis Facility. Carolina will host Senior Day against the Wildcats, then head to Nashville, Tenn., to face the Vanderbilt Commodores in a 1 p.m. contest at the Currey Tennis Center on Sunday. USC will wrap up its regular season schedule the following week, as it travels to arch-rival Clemson on Wednesday, April 12, and then matches up with SEC East rival Florida in both teams’ season finale on Saturday, April 15, in Gainesville, Fla.