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March 6, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team dropped a 5-2 match in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday to Vanderbilt in the SEC opener for both teams. The Gamecocks fell to 5-4 overall while the Commodores improved to 4-1.

South Carolina got off to a slow start in doubles. At the top position, Ana Marija Zubori and Natasa Vuckovic lost 8-3 against Heather Steinbauer and Jackie Wu. Sisters Keilly and Courtney Ulery clinched the point on court three by defeating Ashley Miller and Miljana Jocic. Miller and Jocic trailed 5-2 after seven games, then managed to the tie the score at 5-all before losing 8-6.

With the point decided, Gira Schofield and Dijana Stojic were tied with Vanderbilt’s Catherine Newman and Chelsea Preeg 5-all at No. 2 doubles. Preeg and Newman won two straight games, but Schofield and Stojic stayed alive by winning the 13th game to make the score 7-6. The Commodore duo, though, claimed the next game to complete the sweep in doubles.

The Gamecocks’ slow start in doubles carried over to singles play. Courtney Ulery was the first to finish for Vandy at No. 5 singles with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Miller. Ulery fell behind 3-0 in the second set before coming back to tie the score. Miller pulled ahead 5-4 with the match on serve before Ulery won three consecutive games to close it out.

Keilly Ulery put the Commodores on top 3-0 after winning in three sets against Stojic at the third singles spot. After losing the first set 6-3, Stojic stormed back in the second to win 6-1. In the third set, fatigue set in for Stojic and Ulery pounced on the opportunity for a 6-1 victory.

Preeg provided the winning point for Vanderbilt on court four. After beating Vuckovic 6-3 in the first, Preeg trailed 5-3 in the second and was down 40-15 on Vuckovic’s serve. Preeg found a way to creep back into the set and eventually went ahead 6-5 before Vuckovic forced a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Vuckovic had five set points, but Preeg’s persistence paid off and she won by a 12-10 margin.

Zubori got the Gamecocks on the board after winning in three sets over Wu at No. 2 singles. Wu took the first set 7-5 despite a 5-2 deficit and then lost the second 6-4. A super tiebreaker was used to decide the third since the team outcome had been decided and Zubori came away with a 10-7 victory.

In another third-set super tiebreaker, the Gamecocks were not as fortunate. On court six, Steinbauer also recovered from a 5-2 disadvantage versus Jocic in the first set to win 7-5 before losing the second 6-2. Steinbauer claimed the third set 10-6.

The final match at No. 1 singles went to the Gamecocks’ Schofield. She bounced back from a 6-2 defeat in the first versus Newman to win 6-2 in the second set. Schofield stormed ahead 5-1 in the third before surrendering three straight games to make the score 5-4. A strong service game allowed Schofield to hold on for the 6-4 win.

The Gamecocks take on No. 14 Kentucky for their next SEC contest in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday at noon ET.

#33 Vanderbilt (4-1) def. #29 South Carolina (5-4), 5-2

1. #33 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #50 Catherine Newman, VU, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
2. #49 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, #52 Jackie Wu, VU, 5-7, 6-4, (10-7)
3. #90 Keilly Ulery, VU, def. Dijana Stojic, USC, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1
4. Chelsea Preeg, VU, def. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, 6-3, 7-6(10)
5. Courtney Ulery, VU, def. Ashley Miller, USC, 6-2, 7-5
6. Heather Steinbauer, VU, def. Miljana Jocic, USC, 7-5, 2-6, (10-6)

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

1. Steinbauer/Wu, VU, def. #45 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-3
2. Newman/Preeg, VU, def. Schofield/Stojic, USC, 8-6
3. C. Ulery/K. Ulery, VU, def. Miller/Jocic, USC, 8-6

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2