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April 12, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 24th-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team recorded a decisive 6-1 victory against No. 26 Alabama on Sunday at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks improved to 13-8 and 6-4 in the SEC with the win while the Crimson Tide fell to 13-7 and 3-7 in the league.

South Carolina now has a chance to clinch a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament if it can defeat No. 21 Florida on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., at 10 a.m. Both squads are 6-4 in the conference and the winner will earn either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed at the conference tournament, which takes place April 23-26 in Fayetteville, Ark.

For the second straight match, South Carolina’s outstanding play on courts two and three in doubles earned it the doubles point. At No. 3 doubles, Suzanna Mansour and Dijana Stojic came back from early deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to Alice Tunaru and Shelley Godwin, taking the lead for good at 4-3. With a 5-4 lead, the Gamecocks’ Mansour held serve and then a break put Carolina ahead 7-4. South Carolina held on Stojic’s serve to win 8-4.

Gira Schofield and Miljana Jocic’s match at the second slot versus Paulina Bigos and Taylor Lindsey finished 8-4 in favor of the Gamecocks. After racing ahead 5-0, Alabama managed to win four of the next six games, but the hole was too deep to escape.

The Crimson Tide earned a victory at No. 1 doubles prior to the Gamecocks’ win on court two. Tiffany Welcher and Courtney McLane trailed 2-0 after the first two games against Ana Marija Zubori and Natasa Vuckovic, but they recovered by winning the next six games for a commanding lead. Zubori and Vuckovic then won three straight and nearly made it four with Alabama serving down 0-40, but the Tide won five straight points to make it 7-5. After Vuckovic held to make it 7-6, Alabama held to pick up the 8-6 win.

The Gamecocks wasted no time in singles putting pressure on Alabama, as they won first sets on five of the six courts. Vuckovic ended up being the first to finish despite a 4-1 disadvantage in the first set to Meritt Emery. She won six of the next seven games to win the set 7-5 and then cruised in the next set 6-1.

The win gave Vuckovic her 20th singles victory of the year, making her just the sixth player in school history to win at least 20 singles matches four straight years. She is currently tied for fourth on the Gamecocks’ all-time list for singles victories with 94.

No more than 15 seconds after Vuckovic’s victory, Schofield finished off Welcher at the top position 6-0, 6-1. Schofield won nine straight games before giving up one to Welcher and then took three more in a row for the impressive victory.

Alabama scored its only point at the No. 6 slot, where Lindsey defeated Mansour 6-3, 6-3 to make the score 3-1.

Stojic provided the clinching point for South Carolina at No. 3 singles. She defeated the hard-hitting Bigos 6-2 in the first and then won 6-4 in the second. After a 2-4 start this spring, Stojic has rebounded to win eight consecutive matches, six of which have come in SEC play at No. 3 singles.

With the match decided, Alabama defaulted at No. 2 and No. 5 singles in order to get an early start on its trip back to Tuscaloosa. On court two, Zubori won the first set 6-2 versus McLane and trailed 4-3 in the second when the match was called. At five, Jocic won 6-2 in the first over Godwin and was behind 4-2 in the second before play was stopped.

Prior to the start of Sunday’s match, a short ceremony was held for the team’s three seniors, Mansour, Schofield and Vuckovic, as well as the team’s graduate assistant athletic trainer Dawn Minton. With play completed, the day ended with head coach Arlo Elkins receiving a Gatorade bath thanks to the efforts of assistant coach Katarina Petrovic and Schofield.

#24 South Carolina (13-8, 6-4 SEC) def. #26 Alabama (13-7, 3-7 SEC), 6-1

1. #59 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #105 Tiffany Welcher, UA, 6-0, 6-1
2. #52 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. Courtney McLane, UA, 6-2, 3-4 (Alabama default)
3. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. Paulina Bigos, UA, 6-2, 6-4
4. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, def. Meritt Emery, UA, 7-5, 6-1
5. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Shelley Godwin, UA, 6-2, 2-4 (Alabama default)
6. Taylor Lindsey, UA, def. Suzanna Mansour, USC, 6-3, 6-3

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

1. #73 Welcher/McLane, UA, def. #63 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. Jocic/Schofield, USC, def. Bigos/Lindsey, UA, 8-4
3. Mansour/Stojic, USC, def. Godwin/Alice Tunaru, UA, 8-4

Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2