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May 3, 2006

Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s tennis team will see plenty of familiar faces in the first and second rounds of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, as the Gamecocks will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face archrival Clemson in the opening match, and with a win, would have to face the winner of South Carolina State and host North Carolina in the second round. USC (14-14, 5-6 SEC), is making its 13th straight tournament appearance, a streak that ranks eighth nationally, while head coach Kent DeMars is now tied for the fourth longest active streak among head coaches.

“Making the NCAA Tournament is the number one goal of every team, in every sport, men or women, Division I or III,” said DeMars. “If you’ve done well in the past, like we did in getting to the Sweet 16 last year, you hope go improve on that. Given our difficulties this year with injuries and such, I feel the guys have rebounded very well and we’ve shown we can still compete with anyone. Now we’ll get ready to face Clemson and then try and win the regional and advance to Stanford for the Sweet 16.”

South Carolina will be facing teams that it is very familiar with in the opening rounds, as it has played a combined 70 matches against Clemson and North Carolina since the current dual match format was adopted in 1973. However, only three of those have come in the NCAA Tournament, with the Gamecocks meeting the Tigers and Tar Heels in back-to-back matches in the first two rounds of the 1998 tournament in Richmond, Va.

Despite the fact that only 140 miles separate the archrivals, this year will mark just the second time the sides have ever met in the NCAA Tournament. In that meeting, Carolina claimed a 4-0 victory over Clemson in the 1998 Richmond regional, on the way to the school’s fifth “Sweet Sixteen” appearance. Clemson earned the win in the regular season meeting between the rival on April 12 in Clemson, but the Gamecocks continue to enjoy a 23-14 edge in the all-time series, and have won 12 of the last 15 matches.

USC is no stranger to Chapel Hill either, as the Gamecocks have played 16 matches at border rival North Carolina, and the team also made the trip to UNC’s campus for the first round of the 2004 NCAA Regional. A win against Clemson on Saturday would pit the Gamecocks against the winner of the match between the Tar Heels and South Carolina State on Sunday, May 14, with a berth in the “Sweet 16” on the line.

The Gamecocks have made 16 previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and have collected at least one win in eight of those showings. Carolina has made six runs to the “Sweet 16,” including last season, and also advanced to the 1989 Final Four in Athens, Ga.

In 2005, Carolina picked up a pair of dramatic 4-3 wins at the Stillwater, Okla., Regional to advance to the “Sweet 16” in College Station, Texas. USC defeated No. 51 Oklahoma in the first round, as then-junior Geraldo Knorr clinched the win at No. 5 singles. The following day, the Gamecocks came back from a 3-0 deficit to shock the host OSU Cowboys, sealing the comeback with senior Ben Atkinson’s third-set tiebreaker win over Juan Felipe Diaz at No. 6 singles.

South Carolina had previously been tied with Ole Miss for ninth on the active NCAA Tournament streak list, but Southern Cal, who was tied with UCLA for the top spot, failed to make the 2006 field, bumping the Gamecocks and Rebels up one spot.

The Southeastern Conference holds down four of the top 10 longest active team streaks, with Georgia at No. 2 (23 straight appearances) and Florida joining USC and Ole Miss. Among head coaches, UGA’s Manny Diaz leads all active coaches with 17, while Florida’s Andy Jackson is in second place after taking 16 straight teams to the `Big Dance,’ leading UF there for the fifth straight year after taking Mississippi State 11 years in a row. Ironically, the coach who is one place above DeMars is one his former assistants at USC, Jay Lapidus of Duke (15 straight). DeMars and Chadwick are tied for fourth with 13 in a row, while Kentucky’s Dennis Emery had taken the Wildcats to 11 consecutive tournaments and Auburn’s Eric Shore has the Tigers in the tournament for the 10th straight season.

The SEC was once again among the top conferences in the nation in 2006, and placed nine teams in the NCAA Tournament, tying the ACC for the most by any league. The conference also has the tournament’s top-seeded team, Georgia, who enters the tournament with an unblemished 25-0 record.

Top 10 Active NCAA Tournament Streaks (By School) :
1. UCLA – 30 straight appearances
2. Georgia – 22
3. Stanford – 19
?4. Florida – 16
5. TCU – 16
6. Duke – 15
6. Texas – 15
8. South Carolina – 13
8. Mississippi – 13
8. Texas A&M – 13

Top 10 Active NCAA Tournament Streaks (By Head Coach):
1. Manny Diaz (UGA) – 22 straight appearances
2. Andy Jackson (UF) – 16 (11 with MSU; 5 with Florida)
3. Jay Lapidus (Duke) – 15
4. Kent DeMars (S. Carolina) – 13
4. Billy Chadwick (Ole Miss) – 13
4. Billy Martin (UCLA) – 13
7. Dennis Emery, Kentucky – 10
7. Paul Kostin, VCU – 10
?7. Matt Anger, Washington – 10
10. Tim Cass, Texas A&M – 9
10. Eric Shore, Auburn – 9