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April 2, 2006

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team fell short in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Sunday to Alabama in a 4-3 decision. The Gamecocks dropped to 11-6 overall and 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference, while the Crimson Tide even its record at 8-8 and 4-4 in the league.

USC lost the doubles point, but made a surge in singles play. Miranda Gutierrez posted a 6-2, 6-2 win against Natalie McElveen at No. 4 singles to even the score at 1-1. Alabama’s Ashley Bentley responded with a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Natasa Vuckovic at the No. 2 slot. Gira Schofield gave the Gamecocks a boost when she upset 12th-ranked Robin Stephenson at the top slot 6-4, 7-5, and Megan McGavock pulled USC to within one point of winning the match when she disposed of Shelley Godwin at five singles 7-5, 6-4.

The remaining matches on courts three and six went into third sets. On six, USC’s Justine Walsh had won the first set versus Sofia Ayala 6-4 and dropped the second 6-2. In the third, Walsh was on top 3-2 before Ayala claimed the next four games to tie the score at 3-3.

Christyn Lucas and Mari Muller’s contest at No. 3 singles decided the outcome. The Gamecocks’ Lucas answered a 6-4 defeat in the first set with a 7-6 victory in the second. Like Walsh, Lucas was on top 3-2 in the third until Muller managed to win four straight games to give the Crimson Tide the victory.

South Carolina has one more road SEC match remaining against Kentucky on Friday before returning home for its last two regular-season matches. USC will host No. 11 Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m. and No. 7 Florida on Saturday, April 15, at 1 p.m.

#36 Alabama (8-8, 4-4 SEC) def. #34 South Carolina (11-6, 4-4 SEC), 4-3

1. #68 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #12 Robin Stephenson, UA, 6-4, 7-5
2. #86 Ashley Bentley, UA, def. #115 Natasa Vuckovic, USC, 6-2, 6-3
3. Mari Muller, UA, def. Christyn Lucas, USC, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3
4. Miranda Gutierrez, USC, def. Natalie McElveen, UA, 6-2, 6-2
5. Megan McGavock, USC, def. Shelley Godwin, UA, 7-5, 6-4
6. Sofia Ayala, UA, def. Justine Walsh, USC, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3

Order of finish: 4, 2, 1, 5, 6, 3

1. #18 Bentley/Stephenson, UA, def. McGavock/Schofield, USC, 8-4
2. Lucas/Vuckovic, USC, def. Melissa Day/McElveen, UA, 8-5
3. Andrea Brenes/Muller, UA, def. Gutierrez/Walsh, USC, 8-2

Order of finish: 3, 1, 2