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May 9, 2008

ATHENS, Ga. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team advanced to the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament on Friday with a thrilling 4-3 win over VCU at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. The Gamecocks improved to 13-9 with the victory and will now take on Georgia in the second round Saturday at 4 p.m.

“I told the team beforehand that our team and VCU are essentially equal and that the team that wins will be the one that wants it more,” USC head coach Arlo Elkins said. “I was very pleased with the way we responded after the doubles and the effort we put forth. We’re looking forward to another great match tomorrow with Georgia.”

The Gamecocks lost the doubles point, falling on courts one and three. First, Olena Leonchuk and Kateryna Yergina of VCU upended Jelena Rajic and Natasa Vuckovic at three by an 8-3 score. On court one, the Gamecock duo of Suzanna Mansour and Gira Schofield went ahead 6-3 against Laura Burns and Viktoria Konstantinova, but the Rams countered by winning five games in a row to give VCU the 1-0 lead heading to singles play.

The remaining doubles match at the No. 2 spot had Vera Petrashevitch and Tatsiana Uvarova from VCU leading Megan McGavock and Ana Marija Zubori 7-6 and 30-0 when the match was suspended.

VCU wasted no time snagging a 3-0 lead against the Gamecocks once the singles matches began. Leonchuk took care of Mansour 6-1, 6-0 on court four and minutes later, Burns registered a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over McGavock at the No. 5 spot.

Vuckovic got the Gamecocks on the board at the No. 3 slot where she was a 6-3, 6-1 winner against Yergina. After another five minutes, the margin became one as Zubori took down Konstantinova 6-4, 6-3 on court two.

The last two matches at one and six after Zubori finished were about to enter third sets. Schofield won the first set against Uvarova 6-2, but lost the second 6-4, and Rajic claimed the first 6-4 over Kateryna Malakhova while losing the second 6-3.

Rajic went up 2-0 in the third set and Schofield quickly advanced to 4-0 versus Uvarova, but the Rams mounted a comeback. Malakhova closed the margin to 2-2, but the freshman Rajic stepped up to win the next four games in a row to deadlock the match at 3-all.

Uvarova won five games in a row after Schofield led 4-0, but Schofield was able to win the 10th game to make the score 5-5. Uvarova then held serve to lead 6-5 and Schofield followed by holding serve at love in the next game to force a tiebreaker.

In the breaker, Schofield took a 5-3 lead, but Uvarova came back to win the next three points for her first match point. The next rally saw Schofield rifle a backhand winner down the line on a short ball to make the score 6-6 heading the changeover. Uvarova then grabbed another match point at 7-6, but unforced errors prevented her from hanging on to win, as Schofield took the next three rallies to give South Carolina the first-round NCAA Tournament win.

“I just tried to focus on each point (in the tiebreaker),” Schofield said. “I kept telling myself that pain is only temporary.”

#32 South Carolina (13-9) def. #33 VCU (18-6), 4-3

1. #45 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #44 Tatsiana Uvarova, VCU, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(7)
2. #74 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Viktoria Konstantinova, VCU, 6-4, 6-3
3. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Kateryna Yergina, VCU, 6-3, 6-1
4. Olena Leonchuk, VCU, def. Suzanna Mansour, USC, 6-1, 6-0
5. Laura Burns, VCU, def. Megan McGavock, USC, 6-2, 6-1
6. Jelena Rajic, USC, def. Kateryna Malakhova, VCU, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2

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

1. Burns/Konstantinova, VCU, def. Mansour/Schofield, USC, 8-6
2. McGavock/Zubori, USC, vs. Vera Petrashevitch/Uvarova, VCU, 6-7 susp.
3. Leonchuk/Yergina, VCU, def. Rajic/Vuckovic, USC, 8-3