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March 20, 2009

MIAMI — The South Carolina women’s tennis team suffered a 5-2 setback Friday in Miami to Florida International. The Gamecocks dropped to 7-7 on the year while the Panthers upped their record to 12-5.

South Carolina used some new combinations in doubles this spring at the first and second spots, but FIU still took the doubles point. The Panthers first scored a win on court three with Priscilla Castillo and Maria Spenceley defeating Miljana Jocic and Suzanna Mansour 8-3. Jocic and Mansour led 2-1 early before Castillo and Spenceley took control.

At the No. 1 slot, the Gamecocks’ Ana Marija Zubori and Dijana Stojic trailed Mariana Muci Torres and Maria Dolores Pazo 4-3, but the two countered to go ahead 5-4. Meanwhile, Carolina’s No. 2 team of Gira Schofield and Natasa Vuckovic also went on top 5-4 after getting down 4-3 against Liset Brito and Maria José Vallasciani.

At one, Torres and Pazo took three straight games to grab a 7-5 lead, but Stojic and Zubori held on for the next game to close the margin to 7-6. The next game, however, belonged to the Panthers to give them the 1-0 lead heading to singles.

Within a couple minutes of the point being decided, Schofield and Vuckovic held off Brito and Vallasciani to win 8-6.

FIU quickly went ahead 2-0 after Vallasciani won 6-2, 6-0 over Ashley Miller at No. 6 singles. Soon afterward, Pazo took care of Vuckovic on court four 6-2, 6-3. Pazo had a 4-1 lead in the second set before Vuckovic began creeping back into the match, but she stymied Vuckovic’s attempt at forcing a third set by winning two straight games to close it out.

The Gamecocks got on the scoreboard after snagging a win at the No. 2 slot thanks to Zubori upending Spenceley 6-4, 6-3. Zubori improved to 21-3 on the year with the victory and 13-1 in dual matches this spring at the second position.

Brito had a chance to clinch the match for FIU at the No. 1 spot against Schofield. After winning the first set 6-2, she had a 5-3 advantage in the second and was serving for the match, but Schofield managed a break and then held to make it 5-all. Brito and Schofield then each held serve to send the set into a tiebreaker. After splitting the first two points, Schofield dominated by winning six straight rallies to win 7-1 and keep South Carolina’s hopes of winning alive.

On court five, Jocic won the first set easily against Castillo 6-2, but she faltered in the second 6-3 to force a third set. Castillo ran away with the third by winning 6-0 to give Florida International the victory.

Stojic grinded out the final point of the day for South Carolina at three singles over Torres. She cruised in the first 6-1 but fell behind 5-2 in the second. After claiming two straight games, Torres closed out the second set to force a third. Stojic then returned the favor with a 5-2 lead of her own in the third and then served out the match to win 6-3. Torres is currently ranked No. 90 in the nation, giving Stojic, a freshman, her first career victory against a ranked opponent.

Schofield had a 4-2 lead on Brito in the third, but Schofield surrendered four consecutive games to make the final team score 5-2.

South Carolina next faces USF on Sunday at 10 a.m. in Tampa, Fla.

#49 Florida International (12-5) def. #33 South Carolina (7-7, 1-3 SEC), 5-2

1. #125 Liset Brito, FIU, def. #34 Gira Schofield, USC, 6-2, 6-7(1), 6-4
2. #41 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Maria Spenceley, FIU, 6-4, 6-3
3. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. #90 Mariana Muci Torres, FIU, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
4. Maria Dolores Pazo, FIU, def. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, 6-2, 6-3
5. Priscilla Castillo, FIU, def. Miljana Jocic, USC, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
6. Maria José Vallasciani, FIU, def. Ashley Miller, USC, 6-2, 6-0

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

1. Muci/Pazo, FIU, def. Stojic/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. Schofield/Vuckovic, USC, def. #64 Brito/Vallasciani, FIU, 8-6
3. Castillo/Spenceley, FIU, def. Jocic/Suzanna Mansour, USC, 8-3

Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2