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Jan. 25, 2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to No. 19 Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich. It marked the first loss of the season for the Gamecocks, who fell to 3-1, while the Wolverines improved to 2-0.

South Carolina lost a tightly contested doubles point, falling at the top two positions while winning the third. Tania Mahtani and Chisako Sugiyama won 8-6 on court one versus Natasa Vuckovic and Ana Marija Zubori despite falling behind 3-1 in the early goings of the match.

The Gamecocks answered with a victory at three by Suzanna Mansour and Ashley Miller. The two trailed Lindsey Howard and Michelle Sulahian 3-1 after four games but managed to come back and win 8-6 for their first victory of the spring.

Within two minutes of the Gamecocks’ win at three, the Wolverines’ Whitney Taney and Rika Tatsuno held off Gira Schofield and Miljana Jocic 8-5 at two. Schofield and Jocic were down 7-3 before winning two straight games and after an exhausting 13th game, Taney and Tatsuno avoided a letdown.

Schofield struck back for South Carolina in singles, winning quickly at the top position against Sugiyama 6-1, 6-2. Mahtani answered for Michigan, recovering from a 4-1 deficit in the first to Jocic on court four to win 10 games in a row before closing out the match with a 6-4, 6-1 victory.

Michigan moved within a point of winning after Denise Muresan closed out her match against Mansour at No. 5 singles to win 6-4, 6-2. Soon afterward, Zubori won in straight sets against Tatsuno 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 2 slot and Vuckovic evened the score 3-all after coming back to upend Taney on court three 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The match was decided at No. 6 singles between two freshmen, Sulahian and Miller. Sulahian took the first set 7-5 but trailed 5-4 in the second. Sulahian managed to fight off four set points on her serve in the 10th game to hold and after the two held serve one more time each, the match headed to a tiebreaker.

The first changeover saw the two still deadlocked at 3-all and Miller eventually grabbed a 6-5 advantage after Sulahian just missed on a shot down the line. Sulahian, though, took the next rally and then went up 7-6 after the two changed sides a second time. Miller forced play to continue by taking a short ball and hitting an off-forehand winner in the corner to make the score 7-7. The ensuing two rallies, though, belonged to Sulahian to give the Wolverines the victory.

South Carolina heads to Durham, N.C., for its next match versus Ohio State on Saturday in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Gamecocks will face either VCU or Duke the following day.

#19 Michigan (2-0) def. #33 South Carolina (3-1), 4-3

1. #71 Gira Schofield, USC, def. Chisako Sugiyama, UM, 6-1, 6-2
2. #14 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Rika Tatsuno, UM, 6-3, 6-4
3. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Whitney Taney, UM, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
4. Tania Mahtani, UM, def. Miljana Jocic, USC, 6-4, 6-1
5. Denise Muresan, UM, def. Suzanna Mansour, USC, 6-4, 6-2
6. Michelle Sulahian, UM, def. Ashley Miller, USC, 7-5, 7-6(7)

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

1. Mahtani/Sugiyama, UM, def. #33 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. Taney/Tatsuno, UM, def. Jocic/Schofield, USC, 8-5
3. Mansour/Miller, USC, def. Lindsey Howard/Sulahian, 8-6

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2