May 10, 2006
NCAA Tournament â€¢ First and Second Rounds
Vs. Clemson (First round) â€¢ 12 Noon â€¢ May 13
Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center â€¢ Chapel Hill, N.C.
Saturday, May 13 – Sunday, May 14, 2006
The University of South Carolina men’s tennis team will begin play in its 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament on Friday, as it faces its archrival, 24th-ranked Clemson (22-9, 5-6 ACC), in the Chapel Hill, N.C. regional at 12 p.m. on Saturday, May 13. The Gamecocks (14-14, 5-6 SEC), who struggled through an injury-riddled season, sealed their bid with a strong end to their season, winning five of their final eight contests, all against nationally-ranked opponents. The winner of the USC-Clemson match will face the winner of South Carolina State and host North Carolina on Sunday, May 13, for the right to advance to the “Sweet 16” in Palo Alto, Calif., to be played May 20 at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center.
For the Gamecocks
South Carolina enters the NCAA tournament on a roll, having won five of their final six matches against Southeastern Conference foes, before falling to No. 14 Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Aprll 21 in Tuscaloosa. In the midst of their stretch run, the Gamecocks put together a school-record four straight regular season SEC victories, downing Auburn, Alabama, No. 21 Kentucky and Vanderbilt on back-to-back weekends. After dropping a non-conference match at archrival Clemson and an SEC contest at Florida, Carolina earned one of its toughest victories in recent memory, outlasting Tennessee, 4-3, in the first round of the SEC Tournament on April 20, as senior Adam Adler clinched the Gamecock victory for the third consecutive match.
For the Tigers
The two in-state rivals have had very similar seasons on paper, as Clemson also comes into the NCAA Tournament playing some of its best tennis of 2006. Prior to the rivals’ meeting on April 12 in Clemson, the Tigers had lost six of seven after rising to No. 5 in the Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings in early March. But CU’s 6-1 win over Carolina on April 12 sparked a stretch run in which the Tigers won four straight, before falling to No. 7 Virginia in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
Inside the Match-Up
South Carolina and Clemson have a long and storied history on the courts, having met 37 times since 1973. This year wiill be just the third time ever that the two schools will have met more than once in a season, as the Gamecocks defeated Clemson, 7-0, in the teams’ 1998 regular season meeting, and then went on to knock the Tigers out of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 victory in the first round of the Richmond (Va.) regional. The sides also faced one another an amazing four times during the 1987 season, with USC taking three of those four matches. Despite losing the regular season match-up in Clemson on April 12, the Gamecocks have won 12 of the last 15 meetings in the rivalry, including the two wins in 1998, and lead the all-time series 23-14.
Should the Gamecocks pick up a win over Clemson, they would then face the winner of South Carolina State and 11th-seeded North Carolina in the regional final. The winner of that match will advance to the NCAA’s `Sweet 16.’ That round and the remainder of the team tournament, as well as the Singles and Doubles Championships will be held at the Taube Tennis Center in Palo Alto, Calif., on the campus of Standford University (May 23-28).
A year after tying or breaking eight school records, Kent DeMars’ Gamecock squad continues 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. With a pair of wins at No. 1 doubles in the SEC Tournament, senior Tom Eklund continued to etch his name in the Carolina record books, tying Gamecock great Steve Geller (1973-76) for 13th place in all-time career doubles victories (63).
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 clinched 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 21 of the team’s last 22 matches coming against nationally ranked opposition, including ten against the Top 25. In fact, 13 of the Gamecocks’ 14 losses have come to teams in the nation’s top 50, the lone exception being a March 18 defeat at No. 58 UNLV.
Eklund Leads the Way
USC senior Tom Eklund (Hollviken, Sweden) has been one of the primary ingredients to success for head coach Kent DeMars during the past four seasons in Columbia. The senior has twice been part of USC’s winningest doubles team, partnering with Marcus Westman in 2004, and then again leading the team with Jaime Cuellar in 2005. Eklund has been honored time and again for his efforts, both on the court and off. He was named to the 2005 All-SEC first team, and picked as the nation’s No. 15 singles player in the 2006 preseason ITA poll. Eklund was also chosen as a finalist for the Southeastern Conference’s H. Boyd McWhorter Award, given annually to the conference’s top senior scholar-athlete. In addition, he was chosen as the 2005-06 USC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Carolina Coach Kent DeMars
Now in his 22nd season at South Carolina, Kent DeMars is the winningest coach in school history with 344 victories. The 1989 National Coach of the Year, DeMars picked up his 550th win as head coach of the Gamecocks on Feb. 11, 2006, as the Garnet and Black topped Daivdson, 7-0. The East St. Louis, Ill. native has compiled a 558-310 overall record in 33 seasons as a collegiate coach at USC and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.