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April 10, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Senior Gira Schofield from the South Carolina women’s tennis team scored a win against the nation’s No. 6-ranked player in helping the Gamecocks defeat Auburn on Friday at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. Carolina improved to 12-8 overall with the win and 5-4 in the SEC while Auburn dropped to 11-9 and 3-5 in league play.

Some outstanding doubles play on courts two and three earned South Carolina a 1-0 lead heading to singles play. At three, Suzanna Mansour and Dijana Stojic defeated Fani Chifchieva and Jil Hastenrath 8-3, and then Schofield and Miljana Jocic ousted Myrthe Molenveld and Daniela Vukadinovic 8-4 at the No. 3 spot.

The last match to finish at court one went to the Tigers. The Gamecocks’ Ana Marija Zubori and Natasa Vuckovic had a 5-4 lead on Alex Haney and Whitney Chappell, but Haney and Chappell came back to win four straight games and earn an 8-5 victory.

The match looked bleak for South Carolina in the early goings of singles play. With the exception of court five, the Gamecocks trailed by at least a break on every other court. South Carolina, though, eventually forced four of those matches to go three sets after losing the first and would win three of them.

Hastenrath evened the score at No. 6 singles by posting a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Mansour, but Jocic struck back for South Carolina with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Vukadinovic on court five to regain the lead for Carolina.

Vuckovic snagged the third point for South Carolina. After losing 6-1 in the first set to Molenveld at No. 4 singles, Vuckovic trailed 2-1 in the second before racing ahead 3-2 and then a critical hold of serve after several deuces allowed Vuckovic to lead 4-2. She cruised the remainder of the set and the momentum carried to the third set with Vuckovic going on top 5-0 before winning 6-1.

Needing just one point for the win, Stojic came through at three singles for South Carolina. She lost the first set to Chappell 6-4, but blanked Chappell in the second to force a third. Stojic then got behind 3-0 before mounting an amazing comeback. She began to grind and force Chappell to hit one more ball when it looked as if the point was over and it worked to perfection. Stojic ran off six consecutive games by wearing her opponent down to pick up her seventh straight victory.

Haney scored Auburn’s final point with a 6-7(3), 7-6(0), 6-3 win against Zubori at the second position. Zubori trailed 5-2 in both the first and second sets before forcing tiebreakers, but Haney proved to be too tough in the third set.

Schofield’s big win at No. 1 singles capped off the day for South Carolina. After losing the first set 6-2 to No. 6-ranked and 2008 SEC Player of the Year Chifchieva, Schofield changed up her strategy and began hitting heavy, deep topspin shots over and over. Schofield went ahead 5-0 in the second, but Chifchieva climbed back in it by winning five straight games. Schofield stuck with her strategy and won the second 7-5 and continued using it to win 6-2 in the third.

Schofield’s win against Chifchieva marked the highest ranked win of her career and her second this season against a player ranked in the nation’s top 10 at the time of the match. In January, she beat then-No. 9 Laura Gioia from Furman.

The Gamecocks have one remaining home match this season against Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. A short ceremony honoring the team’s three seniors, Schofield, Mansour and Vuckovic, is scheduled prior to the start of play.

#24 South Carolina (12-8, 5-4 SEC) def. #30 Auburn (11-9, 3-5 SEC), 5-2

1. #59 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #6 Fani Chifchieva, AU, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2
2. #39 Alex Haney, AU, def. #52 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, 6-7(3), 7-6(0), 6-3
3. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. Whitney Chappell, AU, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
4. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Myrthe Molenveld, AU, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1
5. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Daniela Vukadinovic, AU, 6-2, 6-2
6. Jil Hastenrath, AU, def. Suzanna Mansour, USC, 6-2, 6-1

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

1. #34 Chappell/Haney, AU, def. #63 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-5
2. Jocic/Schofield, USC, def. Molenveld/Vukadinovic, AU, 8-4
3. Mansour/Stojic, USC, def. Chifchieva/Hastenrath, AU, 8-3

Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1