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April 22, 2009

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SEC Tournament Central

Scouting the Gamecocks
No. 28 South Carolina (15-9, 3-8 SEC) stormed through its non-conference slate with a 10-1 record and opened SEC play 2-0 for the first time since 2005 to improve to 12-1 by early March. After dropping a pair of road contests to top-10 teams, the Gamecocks put together a three-game win streak, including wins over No. 18 Wake Forest and SEC foe Mississippi State. Since then, however, the Gamecocks have struggled to find the win column. The bottom half of the singles lineup did a bulk of the heavy lifting early in the season, and their slump has mirrored the team’s. Junior Diego Cubas, ranked No. 51 in the nation playing in the top singles spot for the Gamecocks, is 9-12 in dual-match play with a 2-7 record in SEC matches. Playing in the No. 5 spot, sophomore Johannes Pulsfort leads the team with 15 dual-match victories, including four in league matches. Junior Ivan Cressoni, playing No. 6 singles, is next in line with a 13-3 mark this spring, including a 2-3 record against SEC foes. South Carolina’s top doubles team of Cubas and freshman Ivan Machado is ranked No. 23 in the country with a 15-9 overall record (13-8 in dual matches, 5-6 in SEC). The duo has defeated six opponents ranked in the nation’s top 40, including the then-No. 1 tandem from Wake Forest.

Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament
Entering this year’s tournament as the No. 9 seed, South Carolina is 8-17 in SEC Tournament matches since joining the league in 1992. The Gamecocks advanced to the semifinals in 1999 and reached the quarterfinals eight times, including four of the last five years. South Carolina is 4-10 in the tournament when seeded No. 9 or lower and have reached the quarterfinals three times under those circumstances (2001, 2004, 2008).

Deciding Doubles
South Carolina is a perfect 14-0 when winning the doubles point this season. In fact, the Gamecocks have lost just once when claiming the first point of the match (vs. Elon). The tipping point for doubles seems to be at the top of the lineup. The duo battling in the No. 1 doubles position for the Gamecocks has won 16 times in 24 dual matches, and the team has won the doubles point in 14 of those matches. The team’s top duo of Diego Cubas and Ivan Machado, ranked No. 23 in the country, lead the team with 13 doubles victories with all but two of those leading to the Gamecocks winning the doubles point. The tandem was 5-6 against SEC opponents, including victories in the last two matches (at Alabama, vs. Florida). Cubas and Machado have toppled six top-40 opponents this spring, including the then-No. 1 tandem in the nation from Wake Forest.

20-20-20 Vision
A trio of Gamecocks finished the regular season with 20 singles victories this season. The last time three players hit that mark in the same season was 2004-05. Sophomore Johannes Pulsfort leads the trio by percentage points with a 20-12 overall record. Playing mostly in the No. 5 spot, he has recorded a team-best 15 of those victories in dual-match play, including a 4-6 record against SEC foes. Ranked No. 51 in the country, junior Diego Cubas has a 20-13 record on the season, including a 9-12 mark in dual matches. The highlight of his career-best campaign came in a three-set, comeback win over Kentucky’s Bruno Agostinelli, who was ranked No. 2 in the country at the time and currently sits at No. 5. Manning the No. 2 spot in the Gamecock lineup, junior Pedro Campos has reached the 20-win plateau for the third time in his career with a 20-14 mark this season. He is even at 11-11 in dual matches with a 4-6 mark in SEC play.