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April 19, 2006

SEC Tournament Notes in PDF Format
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The University of South Carolina men’s tennis team travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this week for the 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament. The No. 7-seed Gamecocks open the tournament on Thursday, April 20, with a 10 a.m. (CT) match against No. 10-seed Tennessee. The University of Alabama is hosting the event at the Alabama Tennis Complex, April 20-23. Live online updates will be available throughout the tournament on Alabama’s web site at

The top four seeds in the event have first-round byes. The South Carolina-Tennessee winner will advance to face No. 2-seed Florida at 10 a.m. (CT) on Friday, April 21.

The Gamecocks wrapped up the regular season with a 13-13 overall record and a 5-6 mark in SEC play after winning four of its last five league matches. Tennessee is 9-10 overall and finished league play with a 3-8 record. The Vols won the regular season meeting between the two teams, 4-1, on March 12 in Knoxville, Tenn.

For the Gamecocks
South Carolina enters this week’s SEC Tournament playing some of its best tennis of the year, having won four of its final five conference matches in 2006, including a school-record four in a row between March 31 and April 7. The Gamecocks have picked up wins over then-No. 13 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., and home victories over then-No. 21 Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn. With a 5-6 record in SEC play this season, USC has pulled out five or more victories in conference play for the third time in the last four seasons and the sixth time since joining the SEC in 1992.

For the Volunteers
Tennessee comes into the conference tournament this week having lost six of its last seven to end the 2006 regular season. The Volunteers have been in nearly every match though, having lost just two matches this season by four or more points (7-0 at No. 10 Miami (Fla.); 4-0 at No. 13 Ole Miss). UT’s wins have been more convincing, however, as it has surrendered a single point or less in five of its nine wins, including a trio of 6-1 wins, taking wins from the 35th-ranked Gamecocks, No. 62 Mississippi State and No. 75 Furman.

Inside the Match-Up
USC and Tennessee have long fielded evenly matched teams, with 19 of the 37 dual matches between the two schools being decided by two points or less, including 13 that came down to the final point. Despite UT’s 21-16 advantage in the all-time series, Carolina has reason to be optimistic, as in each of USC’s last three SEC Tournament victories, it has avenged a regular season loss to the same team (vs. Auburn, 2001; vs. Arkansas, 2002; vs. Vanderbilt, 2004).

A year after tying or breaking eight school records, Kent DeMars’ Gamecock squads continue to make history. With a 5-2 win over Appalachian State on Feb. 4, the team earned the 750th victory in school history, and a 7-0 shutout of Davidson the following week gave DeMars his 550th career win as a head coach. Senior Tom Eklund continued to etch his name in the South Carolina record books as well, moving into 15th place on the all-time doubles victories list (61) with a win against Florida at No. 1 doubles on April 15.

NCAA Tournament Tough?
With quality wins over Top 25 teams such as then-No. 13 Wake Forest and then-No. 21 Kentucky, as well as one of the nation’s toughest schedules, the Gamecocks are in the hunt for what would be their 13th consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, a streak that ranks DeMars in a tie for the sixth-longest active streak among the nation’s head coaches. The strength of Carolina’s schedule is evident with 19 of the team’s last 20 matches coming against nationally ranked opposition, including nine against the Top 25. In fact, 12 of the Gamecocks’ 13 losses have come to teams in the nation’s top 50, the lone exception being a March 18 defeat at No. 58 UNLV. The 64-team field for the 2006 NCAA Tournament will be announced live on ESPN News (Ch. 147 on Time Warner Columbia) beginning at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, May 3.

Carolina Coach Kent DeMars
Now in his 22nd season at South Carolina, Kent DeMars is the winningest coach in school history with 343 victories. The 1989 National Coach of the Year, DeMars has compiled a 557-309 overall record in 33 seasons as a collegiate coach.

USC-UT Regular Season Recap
South Carolina’s men’s tennis team suffered a tough Southeastern Conference loss on March 12, falling, 4-1, to Tennessee in Knoxville. It marked suffered the first regular season match loss to the Volunteers 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, downing UT’s Adam Hubble at No. 5 singles in straight sets.

The Volunteers took the doubles point from 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 and 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, Tennessee 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. 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.

2006 Player Notes

Adam Adler
2006 – Adler has been called upon to step into action for the majority of the season, getting his first taste of regular playing time since arriving at South Carolina in 2005. The senior from Myrtle Beach, S.C., has played in all 11 SEC matches for the Gamecocks in 2006, and started that run on the right note, earning a win in his first ever conference start on March 3 against Mississippi State. Adler followed that up with wins in two of his final three regular season SEC matches as a Gamecock, clinching USC’s upset of No. 21 Kentucky on April 7, as well as Carolina’s win at Vanderbilt two days later.

Dmitry Babenko
2006 – Babenko’s second season as a Gamecock has been successful, but severely limited. The junior, who transferred to USC from Auburn-Montgomery in 2005, has played in just five dual matches this season due to injury, but has earned wins in both singles matches that he has played while fully fit (1/28 vs. Troy; 3/12 vs. Tennessee), while both of his dual match losses have come after re-aggravating an injury early in the match (2/13 vs. UNC; 2/17 vs. Ole Miss).

Jaime Cuellar
2006 – Cuellar has continued his superb form from a year ago, when he became the first freshman to lead the Gamecocks in singles victories since 1998. The sophomore from San Salvador, El Salvador, currently leads USC in singles victories with a mark of 17-8, including three wins over ranked opponents. Cuellar also has excelled in doubles, and along with senior Tom Eklund is in position to become the winningest tandem on the Carolina squad for the second year in a row. Should Cuellar achieve both of those feats, he would become the first Carolina player to ever lead the team in singles in each of his first two years, and would also be the first Gamecock in school history to lead the team in singles and doubles in back-to-back seasons.

Tom Eklund
2006 – Eklund, who had already left his stamp on Carolina tennis prior to his senior year, has etched his name into the USC record books once again in 2006, as he picked up his 61st career doubles win on April 15 to move into sole possession of 15th place on the all-time doubles victories list at South Carolina. The senior from Hollviken, Sweden can also enter the record books again this season, as he and Jaime Cuellar currently lead the team in doubles wins with a 12-6 mark in 2006. Should that hold for the remainder of the campaign, Eklund would become just the fourth player in school history to be a part of the winningest doubles tandem for three consecutive years. The senior also sits just six singles wins out of the school’s Top 20.

Geraldo Knorr
2006 – Knorr had an excellent 2006 season going through the first week of March, but went down with an injury the following weekend, and has been unable to get back on the court since. The senior from Florianopolis, Brazil, was leading the team in singles victories with a 16-8 record before his injury, and was on pace to lead the team in singles wins for the second time in his career, after accomplishing the feat during his sophomore season in 2004. Knorr had also compiled a 15-7 doubles mark in 2005-06, and partnered with Jaime Cuellar to win the A-Flight Doubles title at the 2005 USC Fall Invitational.

Pedro Rodrigues
2006 – Rodrigues has been yet another Carolina player who has suffered through injury in 2006, having missed 12 of 13 dual matches between Feb. 4 and March 12. However, the Brazilian junior has rebounded in a big way since returning to full health at UNLV on Mar. 17, posting a 6-3 singles mark since that time. Rodrigues, who participated in the 2005 NCAA Doubles Championships with Geraldo Knorr, has also picked up key wins in doubles since returning from injury, and has combined with Tom Eklund to win five of six matches at No. 1 doubles since March 31 against Auburn.

Thomas Stoddard
2006 – Stoddard has spent his first full season as a Gamecock being called into the lineup early and often. The redshirt freshman, who hails from Greenwood, S.C., has taken part in every SEC match for Carolina in 2006, and has seen action in ten additional non-conference matches, including two of USC’s three matches at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in February.

Yevgeny Supeko
2006 – Supeko has excelled in his first season at South Carolina after transferring to USC from Texas A&M in the summer of 2005. The sophomore from Daytona Beach, Fla., has accumulated 16 singles wins so far in 2006, one shy of the 17 he posted at Texas A&M last year. Supeko has had several hot streaks in 2006, the most impressive of which was a 10-match span from Oct. 10-Feb. 11, during which he went 8-2, with his only losses coming to a pair of Top 25 opponents (No. 8 Arnaud Lecloerec, VCU; No. 21 Eric Claesson, Ole Miss). The sophomore also put together a four-match win streak in SEC singles matches from March 31-April 9. Supeko and Geraldo Knorr also form the country’s No. 29 doubles pair, based on their results as a tandem prior to Knorr’s injury in March.

Joseph Veeder
2006 – Veeder, a walk-on who joined the team prior to the 2006 season, has seen a good deal of action this season, primarily as a doubles specialist at No. 3 doubles with Thomas Stoddard. The Brevard, N.C. native has been in the singles lineup just once this season in dual matches (2/19 vs. Penn), but has taken part in 12 dual matches in doubles, including seven SEC contests.