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April 6, 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 22-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team prevailed 4-3 over No. 26 Kentucky on Friday at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. It pushed the Gamecocks’ winning streak to eight and made their overall record 16-3 and SEC mark 8-1. The Wildcats fell to 15-4 with the loss and 6-3 in the SEC.

South Carolina finished its home regular-season schedule with an 11-0 record, its first undefeated ledger since the 1980 squad went 10-0. With eight SEC victories, Carolina has its second-most wins in conference play since joining the league in 1992 and is one away from tying the record set in 1996. The Gamecocks also assured themselves of a first-round bye at the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2002 with Friday’s victory.

“More important than being undefeated at home is we’ll finish in at least the top four in the SEC, which is the toughest conference in the country,” South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins said. “It was Senior Day today, and the crowd was terrific. We could use a crowd like that every time.”

Kentucky grabbed the doubles point by winning the first and second positions. Carolina Escamilla and Sarah Woestmann finished first on court 2 with an 8-6 victory over Christyn Lucas and Natasa Vuckovic. The Wildcats’ 11th-ranked tandem of Kim Coventry and Joelle Schwenk registered an 8-6 win as well against Gira Schofield and Ana Marija Zubori to put UK ahead 1-0.

The Gamecocks managed to win the remaining match at No. 3 doubles. Laura Ganzer and Megan McGavock were down 6-3 in the set before running off five straight games to beat Christine Johnston and Whitney Spencer 8-6.

“I didn’t tell the team anything after the doubles,” Elkins said. “I didn’t think we played as well as we could have. We had gone over the scouting reports earlier in the week and how everyone was supposed to play their opponent. We just went over the reports again and reinforced what we wanted to do in singles.”

Zubori tied the score at 1-1 after she upended Coventry 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, but UK struck back on court 4 with Escamilla’s 6-4, 6-4 win against Lucas. Escamilla led 5-2 in the first set before Lucas closed the margin to 5-4 and was up 3-0 in the second when Lucas mounted another comeback by winning four games in a row.

When Ganzer tied the score back up with a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Spencer at the sixth slot, Woestmann answered by handing Kentucky its third point with a come-from-behind win over Vuckovic at No. 3 singles. After losing the first set 6-1 and trailing in the second 3-0, Woestmann called for an injury timeout. Afterward, she went on to win the next six games to close out the set and jumped ahead 5-2 in the third before winning it 6-3.

Schofield brought the contest down to the last match after she came back to defeat Schwenk 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 on court 1. When she tied the team score at 3-3, McGavock and Jessica Giuggioli were tied at 2-2 in a third set. Giuggioli won the first set 7-6(5), but McGavock stormed back with a 6-0 win in the second.

McGavock grabbed a 3-2 lead after holding serve and proceeded to break Giuggioli at love in the next game. Giuggioli, however, won the next two games to deadlock the score at 4-all, but McGavock held serve in the ninth game. With the score 15-40 in the ensuing game, Giuggioli hit a backhand that clipped the top of the tape and fell on her side of the court to give South Carolina the victory.

“It was certainly a team effort today,” Elkins said. “Megan was the last match on, but Gira had to come back from a 6-1 loss in her first set, and Ana has struggled a little bit late and she won. Natasa was disappointed in her match, but we’ve relied on her all year long, so it was good for some other people to step up. Natasa has nothing to be disappointed with considering what she’s given us this year.”

South Carolina returns to action Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., when it takes on No. 16 Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. ET. The Commodores are 14-7 and 7-2 in the SEC after losing to Florida today.

#22 South Carolina (16-3, 8-1 SEC) def. #26 Kentucky (15-4, 6-3 SEC), 4-3

1. #55 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #110 Joelle Schwenk, UK, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
2. Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Kim Coventry, UK, 6-3, 6-3
3. Sarah Woestmann, UK, def. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
4. Carolina Escamilla, UK, def. Christyn Lucas, USC, 6-4, 6-4
5. Megan McGavock, USC, def. Jessica Giuggioli, UK, 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-4
6. Laura Ganzer, USC, def. Whitney Spencer, UK, 6-1, 6-3

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

1. #11 Coventry/Schwenk, UK, def. #32 Schofield/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. #57 Escamilla/Woestmann, UK, def. Lucas/Vuckovic, USC, 8-6
3. Ganzer/McGavock, USC, def. Christine Johnston/Spencer, UK, 8-6

Order of finish: 2, 1, 3