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May 20, 2009

Schofield’s Final Game

COLLEGE STATION, TexasGira Schofield from the South Carolina women’s tennis team battled her way past Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-4 to reach the NCAA Singles Championship round of 32 at the Mitchell Tennis Center on Wednesday in College Station, Texas. The Gamecocks’ other singles representative, Ana Marija Zubori, fell in her opening-round match to No. 2-seeded and third-ranked Julia Cohen of Miami (Fla.) 7-6(4), 6-3.

Schofield will now face No. 13-ranked Megan Falcon of LSU, who is one of eight 9-16 seeds in the tournament field, at 12:30 p.m. CT Thursday. Falcon rebounded from a 6-3 first-set loss to Chisako Sugiyama of Michigan in the first round to win 6-0, 6-1 in the second and third sets.

Schofield dropped the first game to Zheltova to give her the early break, but unforced errors by Zheltova and steady play by Schofield allowed her to take the next five games. Zheltova grabbed another service break to make it 5-2, however, Schofield broke right back the next game with the score 30-40 after hitting a slice backhand drop shot that Zheltova barely reached and dumped in the middle of the net to give Schofield the first set 6-2.

Zheltova won the first two games of the second set before Schofield struck back with four straight games. Zheltova broke back in the seventh game and held to make it 4-all. Up 5-4 with Zheltova serving, Schofield had match point at 30-40, but Zheltova fought it off and held to continue the match. Schofield managed a critical hold down 0-40 on her serve in the next game and later the second set went to a tiebreaker. Schofield got behind early in the breaker and never managed to recover, losing 7-4 to force a third set.

In the third set, Schofield got behind 2-0 and still trailed 3-1 before mounting a comeback. Serving in the fifth game, Schofield got past two break points for Zheltova to close the gap to one game. Schofield then broke her to level the match at 3-all, but Zheltova broke back for a 4-3 advantage, and Schofield returned the favor the next game for 4-all. Schofield then fought off two more break points in her next service game to take a crucial 5-4 lead. In the 10th game, Zheltova had a 30-15 lead, but Schofield ripped a backhand winner down the line for 30-all and got two unforced errors from Zheltova to win the match.

In the morning match for South Carolina, Zubori got off to a shaking start against Cohen, dropping the first three games, but she recovered to win the next two to cut the deficit to 3-2. Cohen had a chance to take the first set serving up 5-4, but Zubori broke her serve and then held to make it 6-5. Cohen held serve to force a tiebreaker and it looked as though Zubori would take the first set with a 4-1 lead in it, but Cohen rallied to win six straight points to win the set.

In the second, Zubori got off to a strong start with a 3-1 lead, but Cohen rallied once again and claimed the next five games to end Zubori’s season. Zubori posted a 31-7 overall record for her junior season and went 23-4 at No. 2 singles in dual matches. She is only the second player in school history to come up with multiple 30-win seasons during her career.

Zubori and Natasa Vuckovic will compete in the doubles tournament starting Thursday when they take on No. 1-ranked and seeded Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova from Fresno State in the round of 32. No time for their match has been set, however, they will not play before 2 p.m. CT.

NCAA Singles Championship – Round of 64

#43 Gira Schofield, USC, def. #84 Katrina Zheltova, SSU, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-4
#3 Julia Cohen, MU, def. #48 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, 7-6(4), 6-3