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May 7, 2009

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Reviewing the Gamecocks’ Season

No. 31 South Carolina (15-10, 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. 54 in the nation playing in the top singles spot for the Gamecocks, is 9-13 in dual matches. Playing in the No. 5 spot, sophomore Johannes Pulsfort leads the team with 15 dual-match victories. Junior Ivan Cressoni, playing No. 6 singles, is next in line with a 14-3 mark this spring.

South Carolina’s top doubles team of Cubas and freshman Ivan Machado is ranked No. 24 in the country with a 15-10 overall record (13-9 in dual matches). The duo has defeated six opponents ranked in the nation’s top 40, including the then-No. 1 tandem from Wake Forest.

The Battle of the Carolinas

South Carolina is 15-20 in the 36-year history of its series against North Carolina. The two border state schools have met twice in the NCAA Chamionships. The Tar Heels won the first such outing 4-2 in 1994, while the Gamecocks claimed a 4-1 victory in the 1998 event en route to a spot in the Sweet 16.

The two schools did not play a dual match this season, but they did square off in individual matches at the South Carolina Fall Invitational in October. The Tar Heels were without their top two singles players, who also make up their top doubles team. South Carolina won four of the eight singles matches between the teams at the event.

In dual-match play, North Carolina is riding a four-match win streak over the Gamecocks with the most recent contest ending in a 6-1 Tar Heel victory on Feb. 17, 2007.

Gamecocks in the NCAA Championships

South Carolina is making is 19th appearance in the NCAA Championships and has made the field in eight of the last 10 seasons. Through several permutations of the NCAA tournament, South Carolina has amassed a 13-18 record in the event. That includes a 10-11 mark during the 12 years in which teams played a regional tournament before advancing to the championship rounds. The Gamecocks have played in the Sweet 16 six times, most recently in 2005. The best showing by a South Carolina squad was in 1989 when the Gamecocks reached the semifinals, where they fell to Stanford.

The Virginia and Navy Series

Looking ahead to the potential second-round matchups, South Carolina has a 7-1 all-time record against Virginia and 1-0 mark against Navy. The Gamecocks and Cavaliers have not met since the 1998 NCAA Region II Final, which South Carolina won 4-2 in Richmond, Va., to secure a spot in the Sweet 16. The two teams also battled in the 1997 NCAA Region II Quarterfinals. UVa’s lone win in the series was a 6-3 decision in the inaugural meeting on March 8, 1974.

Cubas Earns All-SEC Nod

Southeastern Conference head coaches voted South Carolina junior Diego Cubas to the All-SEC Second Team after the Gamecocks’ No. 1 singles player posted a career-best 20-14 record, including a 9-13 mark in dual matches. It is the first postseason honor for Cubas and the first for the Gamecocks since current senior Jaime Cuellar earned second-team honors in 2006.

Advancing to College Station

Two Gamecocks will compete College Station, Texas, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s matches. Junior Diego Cubas earned one of the 48 at-large bid to the NCAA Singles Championship behind a career-best 20-14 singles record and a No. 54 national ranking. Freshman Ivan Machado will join Cubas at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center for the NCAA Doubles Championship. Ranked No. 24 in the nation, the duo is 15-10 on the season and earned one of the 17 at-large bids to the event.

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 25 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. 24 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) of the regular season. 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 20-13 overall record. Playing mostly in the No. 5 spot, he has recorded a team-best 15 of those victories in dual-match play.

Ranked No. 54 in the country, junior Diego Cubas has a 20-14 record on the season, including a 9-13 mark in dual matches. The highlight of his 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. 6.

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 19 wins this season, freshman Ivan Machado could make it a quartet of 20-win players. No Gamecock team has hit that mark since Olof Akesson, Juan Gamboa, Jerome Jourdon and Guillaume Legat each recorded at least 20 wins in the 1998-99 campaign.