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April 20, 2007

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The No. 23 University of South Carolina women’s tennis team suffered a 4-3 loss in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday to the 24th-rated University of Tennessee in Lexington, Ky. The Gamecocks saw their record dip to 16-6 overall and the Lady Volunteers improved to 13-9.

South Carolina started strong in the doubles at the first and second positions. On court 1, Gira Schofield and Ana Marija Zubori ran off five games in a row after the score was tied 2-2 against Caitlin Whoriskey and Zsofia Zubor. Christyn Lucas and Natasa Vuckovic snagged a 4-1 lead at No. 2 doubles against UT’s Blakeley Griffith and Samantha Orlin after five games.

The Lady Vols were 8-0 winners at three doubles, which featured Ghizela Schutte and Connor Vogel taking on the Gamecocks’ Laura Ganzer and Megan McGavock. South Carolina was up 7-3 on court 1 and 5-3 on the second court when the match finished.

Griffith and Orlin claimed four games in a row after trailing 5-3, but South Carolina managed to win the 13th game to keep itself in the match. The Lady Volunteers, though, were able to close out the match in the ensuing game to take the early 1-0 lead.

The remaining doubles match at the top spot had Tennessee leading 8-7 after Whoriskey and Zubor won six games in a row. The two squads were at the changeover when the No. 2 doubles team from UT clinched the point.

South Carolina got back into the match quickly in singles, winning first on court 2 with Zubori’s 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Schutte. It was her 30th victory of the season, making her the first Gamecock since Tracy Kotseos in 1994-95 to win 30 singles matches. Kotseos finished with a 30-11 record that season, and Zubori is currently 30-6.

Vuckovic finished next within 15 minutes with a 6-1, 7-5 win against Vogel at the No. 3 slot. It upped her record to 22-6 this season and 18-3 in dual matches.

Whoriskey tied the team score back up at 2-2 after she registered a 6-4, 6-1 win versus Ganzer on court 4. Miranda Gutierrez put South Carolina back on top after she made short work of Victoria Jones by scores of 6-3, 6-1 at the sixth spot, but Orlin deadlocked the score once again thanks to a 7-5, 7-5 win over McGavock at No. 5 singles.

Schofield and Griffith’s contest on court 1 proved to be the deciding point. After Schofield won the first set 6-4, Griffith answered back with a 6-2 victory in the second and was up 1-0 in the third after Orlin won her match.

Trailing 2-1, Schofield managed to come back with a break and held serve to lead 3-2. Griffith held in the sixth game and Schofield did likewise in the seventh. The next two games went to Griffith, but Schofield hung tough with a break after her opponent tried serving for the match. Schofield could not hold serve in the next game, however, and Griffith capitalized when she served for the match the second time.

Despite the loss, South Carolina appears to be in a good position for a 13th consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 16-6 record and No. 23 national ranking. The 64-team bracket will be announced May 1 at 2:45 p.m. on ESPNEWS.

#24 Tennessee (13-9, 6-5 SEC) def. #23 South Carolina (16-6, 8-3 SEC), 4-3

1. #29 Blakeley Griffith, UT, def. #63 Gira Schofield, USC, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
2. #83 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Ghizela Schutte, UT, 6-3, 6-2
3. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Connor Vogel, UT, 6-1, 7-5
4. Caitlin Whoriskey, UT, def. Laura Ganzer, USC, 6-4, 6-1
5. Samantha Orlin, UT, def. Megan McGavock, USC, 7-5, 7-5
6. Miranda Gutierrez, USC, def. Victoria Jones, UT, 6-3, 6-1

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

1. #38 Schofield/Zubori, USC, vs. #27 Whoriskey/Zsofia Zubor, UT, 7-8
2. Griffith/Orlin, UT, def. Christyn Lucas/Vuckovic, USC, 8-6
3. Schutte/Vogel, UT, def. Ganzer/McGavock, USC, 8-0

Order of finish: 3, 2