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March 29, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina women’s tennis team earned a critical 5-2 victory over Ole Miss on Sunday at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks evened their SEC record at 3-3 and improved to 10-7 overall, while the Rebels dropped to 9-6 and 2-4 in the league. Ole Miss entered the match riding a four-match unbeaten streak and upended No. 14 Florida two days earlier before facing South Carolina.

Carolina got off to a sluggish start in doubles. The Gamecocks’ Gira Schofield and Miljana Jocic won easily against Mimi Renaudin and Laura van de Stroet on court two 8-1, but positions one and three went to Ole Miss. Abigail Guthrie and Gabriela Rangel first defeated Suzanna Mansour and Dijana Stojic at three 8-5, and then the duo of Kristi Boxx and Karen Nijssen beat Natasa Vuckovic and Ana Marija Zubori 8-5 to put the Rebels ahead 1-0 heading to singles.

The Gamecocks came out firing in singles, winning the first set on courts two through six while losing the first set at No. 1 singles in a tiebreaker. Four straight-set victories at two through five singles secured the win for South Carolina.

“I was very displeased with our emotion and effort in the doubles,” South Carolina head coach Arlo Elkins said. “We really turned it around in singles. We had great energy on every court and when we have it, we are a very tough team for anyone to beat.”

Stojic got things rolling in singles with a convicing 6-2, 6-0 win over van de Stroet at the No. 3 spot. It marked the fourth consecutive victory for Stojic and upped her record on the spring to 6-4.

Jocic put the Gamecocks ahead 2-1 after she earned a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Guthrie on court five. Jocic has won her last three matches in a row and is now 3-3 in the SEC this season.

Vuckovic extended the lead to 3-1 after beating Rangel 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 4 hole. It gave Vuckovic her 91st career singles victory and moved her into sole possession of fifth place on South Carolina’s all-time list. Three more wins will tie her for fourth place with Tamara Sutton.

The Rebels got their first and only point in singles when Boxx defeated Schofield 7-6(4), 6-1 at the top slot. Schofield held a 5-4 lead in the first set before the two battled their way into a tiebreaker. After winning the first game of the second set, Schofield lost six straight games to give Boxx the victory.

Zubori provided the clinching point at No. 2 singles against Nijssen. After snagging the first set 6-4, some erratic play left Zubori in a 3-0 hole to start the second, but she recovered to win the next two games to cut the deficit to one. Nijssen claimed the next two games for a commanding 5-2 advantage, but Zubori caught fire and took three straight games. The two each held serve and then played a tiebreaker, which Zubori dominated 7-2 to lift South Carolina to victory.

Zubori has been nearly untouchable this spring, improving to 15-1 in dual matches at No. 2 singles this spring. She is a perfect 6-0 in SEC matches and owns a 23-3 overall record to go along with her No. 41 national ranking.

No. 6 singles was the last match to finish on the day. Mansour cruised in the first set 6-2 against Renaudin, but Renaudin won easily in the second 6-1 to force a third set. The two were tied 2-all once Zubori had clinched the match.

Mansour won the fifth game to lead 3-2 on the changeover, but Renaudin came back to win the next two. The two split the next two games to make it 5-4 for Renaudin. Fighting exhaustion, Mansour continued her steady play around the court and took advantage of opportunities against Renaudin to win three straight games for a 7-5 victory in the third.

The Gamecocks hit the road for their next two SEC matches. They first play at Arkansas on Friday, April 3, and then face LSU on Sunday, April 5.

#40 South Carolina (10-7, 3-3 SEC) def. #35 Ole Miss (9-6, 2-4 SEC), 5-2

1. #36 Kristi Boxx, UM, def. #34 Gira Schofield, USC, 7-6(4), 6-1
2. #41 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. #70 Karen Nijssen, UM, 6-4, 7-6(2)
3. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. Laura van de Stroet, UM, 6-2, 6-0
4. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Gabriela Rangel, UM, 6-4, 6-4
5. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Abigail Guthrie, UM, 6-2, 6-2
6. Suzanna Mansour, USC, def. Mimi Renaudin, UM, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5

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

1. #60 Boxx/Nijssen, UM, def. #78 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-5
2. Jocic/Schofield, USC, def. Renaudin/van de Stroet, UM, 8-1
3. Guthrie/Rangel, UM, def. Mansour/Stojic, USC, 8-5

Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1