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March 8, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team dealt No. 14 Kentucky its first loss of the season Sunday in Lexington, Ky., to even its SEC record at 1-1 and improve to 6-4 overall. The Wildcats dropped to 9-1 and 1-1 in the league.

The Gamecocks won a fiercely competitive doubles point by claiming the top two positions. On court one, Natasa Vuckovic and Ana Marija Zubori stormed ahead of Carolina Escamilla and Caroline Lilley 7-3, but the Wildcat duo responded by winning three straight games. Vuckovic, though, managed to serve it out thanks to some well placed serves and clutch volleys.

The Wildcats’ Lauren Meier and Whitney Spencer were ahead 7-4 at the third slot when the Gamecocks won the first doubles position. Ashley Miller and Miljana Jocic hung on as long as they could before succumbing 8-4 to set the stage on court two.

Gira Schofield and Dijana Stojic held a 5-2 advantage at one point against Kentucky’s Megan Broderick and Christine Johnston, but the Wildcats closed back to 5-4. South Carolina held serve to stay up 6-4, but Kentucky then moved ahead 7-6 and the Gamecocks trailed 15-30 on Schofield’s serve. The Gamecocks stayed tough and managed to win the next three points to make the score 7-all and then cruised through the next two games to take a 1-0 lead heading to singles play.

“I was very happy with the way our team came out in the doubles and winning that point was huge for us,” South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins said. “Kentucky plays very good doubles, so for us to take it from them was very impressive. We had great energy today, something I talked to our team about after losing to Vanderbilt, and they definitely responded. I was proud of our effort today.”

Strong winds continued to pick up speed following doubles and the match was moved indoors after the wind exceeded 25 mph.

Kentucky tied things up in singles when Johnston upended Stojic 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, but the Gamecocks responded with Vuckovic’s 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Spencer at the fourth spot.

Schofield and Zubori slowly progressed in getting the Gamecocks closer to their third and fourth points. Schofield trailed Escamilla 4-2 in the first set at No. 1 singles before storming back to win four games in a row. She then took a commanding 3-0 upper hand in the second, but Escamilla countered by winning the next two games in hopes of turning the momentum.

Zubori used less than 30 minutes to take care of the first set against Broderick 6-2. She then held a 4-2 lead in the second, but Broderick clawed her way back into it and unforced errors by Zubori helped Broderick earn a 6-4 win to force a third set.

Schofield managed a tough hold of serve after several deuces to lead Escamilla 4-2 and then broke her for a 5-2 advantage and a chance to serve for the match. Meanwhile, Zubori returned to her form of the first set and blasted one winner after another to quickly lead Broderick 4-0 in the third and then 5-2.

Both Zubori and Schofield had several deuces in their service games before both found themselves serving at the same time with the advantages. It was Zubori who finished first after Broderick hit a backhand in the net and a minute later, Schofield received an unforced error from Escamilla to finish off the Gamecocks’ win.

South Carolina’s victory at Kentucky marked its first win in Lexington since winning by a 6-3 margin Feb. 26, 2000. South Carolina entered the match having lost three in a row at Kentucky.

The two teams split the remaining matches at Nos. 5 and 6 singles. Court six went to the Wildcats’ Meier against Suzanna Mansour after Meier won the first set 6-0 and then Mansour withdrew. At five, Jocic defeated Lilley 6-4, 6-3 to make the final score 5-2.

South Carolina will spend the next few days in Las Vegas for spring break before taking on UNLV on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET.

#29 South Carolina (6-4, 1-1 SEC) def. #14 Kentucky (9-1, 1-1 SEC), 5-2

1. #33 Gira Schofield, USC, def. Carolina Escamilla, UK, 6-4, 6-2
2. #49 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. #96 Megan Broderick, UK, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2
3. Christine Johnston, UK, def. Dijana Stojic, USC, 6-2, 6-1
4. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Whitney Spencer, UK, 6-1, 6-3
5. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Caroline Lilley, UK, 6-4, 6-3
6. Lauren Meier, UK, def. Suzanna Mansour, USC, 6-0 default (withdrew)

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

1. #45 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, def. #53 Escamilla/Lilley, UK, 8-6
2. Schofield/Stojic, USC, def. Broderick/Johnston, UK, 9-7
3. Meier/Spencer, UK, def. Jocic/Ashley Miller, USC, 8-4

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2