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May 12, 2007

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The 25th-ranked University of South Carolina women’s tennis team closed out the 2007 season with a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Wichita State University at Neil Schiff Tennis Center in Coral Gables, Fla., on Saturday. WSU (27-2) next takes on host University of Miami, a 4-0 winner against Alabama A&M University in the first round, Sunday at noon.

The Gamecocks concluded the year with a 16-7 record and a 13th straight NCAA appearance, the 11th-longest active streak in the nation. It also was South Carolina’s ninth consecutive season with a winning record under head coach Arlo Elkins and its 14th season in a row with at least a .500 winning percentage.

Losing the doubles point proved to be South Carolina’s undoing in the match. The Gamecocks won easily at the No. 3 position with Laura Ganzer and Miranda Gutierrez recording an 8-2 decision against Lenore Lazaroiu and Jackie Richey. The Shockers countered with Stephanie Dalmacio and Anna Egorova’s 8-5 victory on court 2 over Christyn Lucas and Natasa Vuckovic.

South Carolina’s Gira Schofield and Ana Marija Zubori tied the No. 1 doubles match with Wichita State’s Madina Rakhim and Florentina Hanisch at 5-5, but WSU took a 6-5 advantage heading to the court changeover. The teams split the next two games before the Shockers held serve to win the doubles point.

The Gamecocks charged back in singles, winning first at court 6 with Gutierrez’s dominating 6-1, 6-0 performance versus Torrie Browning. Gutierrez ended her career winning five of her last six singles contests and went 21-7 this season. Overall, she was 70-38 in singles matches and 55-39 in doubles during her four-year stint at South Carolina.

Vuckovic improved to 23-6 overall and 19-3 in dual matches this season after defeating Lazaroiu 6-0, 6-3 at the third slot. A two-time All-SEC selection, Vuckovic will return for her junior year sporting a 49-21 career singles record and 39-27 slate in doubles.

The scoreboard read 3-1 in favor of South Carolina following Zubori’s 31st victory of the season. She had little trouble in her No. 2 singles match, winning 6-3, 6-1 against Hanisch, who showed signs of fatigue early in the first set due to heat.

Zubori, a freshman, had one of the most successful seasons in school history. At 31-6, her total singles victories stands tied for fifth at South Carolina for one season and is the most since 1989-90 when Robin Deitch posted a 31-12 record. Additionally, her .837 singles winning percentage ranks sixth, and Zubori’s 52 wins between singles and doubles this season is tied for ninth on the school’s all-time list.

Wichita State won the remaining matches on courts 1, 4 and 5. Egorova finished first with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph in her contest with Lucas. A Miami native and senior, Lucas closed out her career with a 69-42 singles record and was 64-47 as a doubles player.

After Rakhim held off Schofield in a tiebreaker for the first set, she cruised to a 6-1 victory in the second to deadlock the team score at 3-all. Schofield was down 4-1 in the first but rallied to 4-4 and was up 6-5 with a chance to serve out the first set. With the tiebreaker tied at 3-3, Rakhim took the next three points before winning 7-5.

Schofield’s season is still not over, as the sophomore received an at-large bid to the NCAA Singles Championship over May 23-28 in Athens, Ga. It will mark her second appearance in a row at the event, and the draw will be released May 22. She and Zubori are listed as the second alternate team for the doubles tournament as well.

The final match at four singles saw Ganzer and Dalmacio tied at 3-3 in the second set when the No. 1 singles match ended. Ganzer, who won the first set 7-5, had a 3-1 lead in the second before Dalmacio won three games in a row, but Ganzer managed to keep the match on serve during games 7, 8 and 9.

In the 10th game, Ganzer broke Dalmacio’s serve for a 6-5 lead at the changeover. She was leading 30-15 in the next game before Dalmacio got the game to deuce and won to force a tiebreaker.

It took 22 points to decide the tiebreaker, and both players had several opportunities to win it. The first came when Dalmacio was up 6-5 and boomed a big first serve that Ganzer just kept in play. An unforced error by Dalmacio kept the breaker going.

Dalmacio had another chance to win up 7-6, but Ganzer took the next two rallies for her first match point. She had another up 9-8 before Dalmacio tied the score for the ninth time. Ganzer fought off a third set point at 10-9, but Dalmacio came up with a pair of winners on the next two rallies to force a third set.

With the match nearly three hours old, Dalmacio claimed the first game in set 3 and held a 2-1 advantage after the third. Ganzer won the next two games, however, Dalmacio answered with three in a row to go up 5-3.

Ganzer served her way past the ninth game to keep the Gamecocks’ hopes of a second-round NCAA match alive, but exhaustion finally got the best of her. Dalmacio held for a 6-4 victory to end the three and a half-hour match in the Shockers’ favor.

One of three Gamecock seniors, Ganzer went 66-44 during her career in singles and was 63-51 in doubles. Her 26-9 slate this season in doubles matches led South Carolina and ranks as the eighth-best single-season total in school history.

#35 Wichita State (27-2) def. #25 South Carolina (16-7), 4-3

1. #63 Madina Rakhim, WSU, def. #63 Gira Schofield, USC, 7-6(5), 6-1
2. #109 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Florentina Hanisch, WSU, 6-3, 6-1
3. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Lenore Lazaroiu, WSU, 6-0, 6-3
4. Stephanie Dalmacio, WSU, def. Laura Ganzer, USC, 5-7, 7-6(10), 6-4
5. Anna Egorova, WSU, def. Christyn Lucas, USC, 6-3, 6-2
6. Miranda Gutierrez, USC, def. Torrie Browning, WSU, 6-1, 6-0

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

1. Rakhim/Hanisch, WSU, def. #35 Schofield/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. Dalmacio/Egorova, WSU, def. #57 Lucas/Vuckovic, USC, 8-5
3. Ganzer/Gutierrez, USC, def. Lazaroiu/Jackie Richey, WSU, 8-2

Order of finish: 3, 2, 1