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May 15, 2009

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Coach Arlo Elkins and Ana Marija Zubori

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The No. 22-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team (17-10) continued its NCAA run Friday afternoon with a 4-0 victory against No. 32-ranked Washington (18-8) in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas.

The Gamecocks next take on No. 2-seeded and ranked Georgia (26-2) in the quarterfinals on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET at the Mitchell Tennis Center. Georgia recorded at 4-2 victory over No. 15-seeded and ranked Florida in the round of 16.

“It was a great effort,” South Carolina coach Arlo Elkins said. “At the end of the season, we’ve been playing very well. I could tell when we were in final exams that we were going to play well. This team was really focused during finals week, and we practiced for an hour and a half to two hours every day. We were totally focused. They felt good about the opportunity of what we have in front of us. I think they really took advantage of it today.”

Gamecock junior Ana Marija Zubori clinched the victory for South Carolina at No. 2 singles, earning her 30th victory of the season in the process to become only the second player in school history to post multiple 30-win seasons. Zubori went 31-6 her freshman year and now sits at 30-6 for the 2008-09 campaign.

After winning the first set handily 6-2 against Denise Dy, Zubori allowed Dy to get right back in the match when she faltered 6-2 in the second. It looked as though Dy might run away with the match after she snagged a 2-0 lead in the third, but Zubori recovered to win the next three games. Serving at 3-all, Zubori came away with a critical hold after Dy had break point to lead 4-3. The two continued to hold serve until Zubori broke Dy leading 30-40 in the 12th game when Dy hit a forehand that sailed beyond the baseline.

“The match was difficult because the weather was tough and it was really hot,” Zubori said. “It was a good opportunity to go to the quarterfinals. We gave our best and gave 100 percent of our abilities, and at the end, it worked. I was the lucky one to finish, but all the girls, that was a team win because everybody gave 100 percent. In doubles, we were really good, and then we won 4-0, so it’s everybody’s win.”

While Zubori and partner Natasa Vuckovic were defeated in their No. 1 doubles match against Dy and Joyce Ardies 8-5, the Gamecocks still won the point thanks to outstanding play on courts two and three. After court one finished, Gira Schofield and Miljana Jocic ousted Venise Chan and Aleksandra Malovic 8-4 at No. 2 doubles. It did not take much longer for Suzanna Mansour and Dijana Stojic to upend Samantha Smith and Lina Xu 8-5 at three to give South Carolina the 1-0 lead.

The Gamecocks’ doubles tandems at positions two and three are each 3-0 in the NCAA Tournament this season, helping South Carolina to win the doubles point in their victories against Wake Forest, Tennessee and Washington.

Schofield trailed Chan 2-0 in the early goings of her match at No. 1 singles but stormed back for a 6-4 victory in the first set. In the second, Schofield won a critical deuce game to push ahead 4-1. Chan called for an injury timeout during the changeover and Schofield went on to win the match 6-2 in the second.

In addition to putting her team on top 2-0, Schofield took over sole possession of seventh place on the Gamecocks’ all-time list for singles victories with 88.

Stojic moved South Carolina to within one point of clinching the match with a 7-5, 6-2 triumph over Xu on court three. Stojic actually fell behind 4-1 in the first set but closed back to 5-4 and fought off a set point to make it 5-all. She dominated the second set to pick up her 13th victory in her last 14 matches.

After Zubori clinched the match, courts four, five and six were all suspended third sets. Vuckovic led Smith 3-2 in the third, while Jocic was ahead of Ardies 2-0. Mansour and Malovic had just started their third set when play was stopped.

The Gamecocks’ top three singles positions have been unstoppable during this postseason. Schofield, Zubori and Stojic are each 3-0 in South Carolina’s three victories thus far.

South Carolina’s victory also gave Elkins his 400th career victory. Elkins is in his 26th season as head coach of the women’s tennis program and is a member of the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame.

“Whether it was the 400th or the first or 10th or whatever, it was a heck of a win for us,” Elkins said. “I’m really proud of the effort the girls put in. It was really hot and they put in an unbelievable effort, so the No. 400 is just a number. What I’m looking for is 401, 402 and 403 in this tournament. You know, you have to be proud of yourself for being involved with 400 wins, but on the other hand, I’m more proud of what the girls did today than it being my 400th win.”

#22 South Carolina (17-10) def. #32 Washington (18-8), 4-0

1. #43 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #19 Venise Chan, UW, 6-4, 6-2
2. #48 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. #78 Denise Dy, UW, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
3. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. Lina Xu, UW, 7-5, 6-2
4. Natasa Vuckovic, USC, vs. Samantha Smith, UW, 6-4, 3-6, 3-2 suspended
5. Miljana Jocic, USC, vs. Joyce Ardies, UW, 6-3, 1-6, 2-0 suspended
6. Suzanna Mansour, USC, vs. Aleksandra Malovic, UW, 6-2, 3-6, 0-0 suspended

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2

1. #47 Ardies/Dy, UW, def. #27 Vuckovic/Zubori, USC, 8-5
2. Jocic/Schofield, USC, def. Chan/Malovic, UW, 8-4
3. Mansour/Stojic, USC, def. Smith/Xu, UW, 8-5

Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3