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April 4, 2010

Coach Elkins
Madeleine Saari-Byström

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 19th-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team (14-4, 7-1 SEC) posted its sixth victory in a row Sunday with a 5-2 win over No. 24 Vanderbilt (9-8, 4-4 SEC) at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. With the victory, the Gamecocks are now tied for second in the SEC with Georgia following the Bulldogs’ loss at Ole Miss today.

South Carolina faltered in the doubles point, losing at the first and second positions. The Commodores struck first on court two with Catherine Newman and Erica Robertson recording an 8-3 victory against Miljana Jocic and Madeleine Saari-Byström. Newman and Robertson were ahead 3-2 and pushed the lead to 6-2 before Jocic and Saari-Byström closed the margin to 6-3.

The Gamecocks answered back with Anya Morgina and Adriana Pereira’s 8-6 win at three doubles versus Hannah Blatt and Rachael Dillon. Morgina and Pereira stormed out to a 4-0 advantage before losing the next six games to trail 6-4. Morgina and Pereira then won another four games in a row to take the match.

The deciding match came at one with Jackie Wu and Chelsea Preeg outlasting Ana Marija Zubori and Dijana Stojic 8-6. Zubori and Stojic missed out on a great opportunity to tie the match at 6-all after getting ahead 0-30 on Preeg’s serve, but she held to make it 7-5. Zubori held in the next game and Wu went on to serve out the match at love to give the Commodores the 1-0 lead heading to singles play.

Carolina fought back in singles, but the Commodores claimed the No. 3 singles match first with Preeg defeating Morgina 6-3, 7-5. Morgina trailed 4-1 in the third set before fighting back to make it 5-all, but Preeg managed to hand Morgina just her second SEC loss of the season. It would be Vanderbilt’s only victory in singles, though.

Pereira got South Carolina on the board when she recorded her 20th win of the season, downing Dillon 7-6(3), 6-3 on court five. Pereira improved to 12-3 in dual matches with the win and upped her SEC record to an impressive 7-1.

Stojic tied the team score at 2-all with a dominant performance at No. 2 singles. After taking the first set from the 27th-ranked Wu 6-3, the unranked Stojic shut out Wu 6-0 in the second to pick up her team-leading 15th dual match victory of the spring. Wu is the highest ranked player Stojic has beaten in her career and it avenged a 6-1, 6-1 loss Stojic suffered to Wu at the SEC Fall Coaches Classic last September.

Jocic pulled the Gamecocks to within a point of clinching the match at No. 4 singles with her 7-5, 6-2 win against Ulery. Jocic leads South Carolina in victories this season with a stellar 25-5 overall record, and she is 14-2 in duals.

Saari-Byström, who had been out of the lineup with an injury to her lower right arm for nearly a month, came back from a 6-4 first-set loss to Blatt on court six to win the match for the Gamecocks. Serving with a 5-4 lead in the second set, Saari-Byström and Blatt battled back and forth in a deuce game that lasted nearly 20 minutes. Eventually, Saari-Bystöm prevailed to force a third set. In the third, Saari-Byström had leads of 2-0 and 4-1, but Blatt was able to close the margin to 4-3 on the changeover. Saari-Byström’s steady play paid off in the next two games, though, as she outlasted Blatt for the 6-3 triumph.

With the match decided, Zubori provided the icing on the cake for South Carolina at No. 1 singles against No. 23-ranked Newman. Zubori took the first set 6-4, but lost the second 7-5 despite a 4-2 lead. In the third, Zubori got a critical hold in the seventh game to go up 4-3 and then broke Newman to lead 5-3. Zubori continued her aggressive approach, constantly moving forward to get to the net and the end result was a 6-3 victory in the third. She extended her winning streak to six matches with the victory and now stands 23-10 on the season and 11-7 in duals at No. 1 singles.

More SEC Eastern Division rivals await the Gamecocks next week when they travel to Athens, Ga., to take on No. 13 Georgia on Friday at 5 p.m. followed by a showdown with No. 14 Tennessee at 1 p.m. Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn.

#19 South Carolina (14-4, 7-1 SEC) def. #24 Vanderbilt (9-8, 4-4 SEC), 5-2

1. #75 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, def. #23 Catherine Newman, VU, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3
2. Dijana Stojic, USC, def. #27 Jackie Wu, VU, 6-3, 6-0
3. #82 Chelsea Preeg, VU, def. #107 Anya Morgina, USC, 6-3, 7-5
4. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Keilly Ulery, VU, 7-5, 6-2
5. Adriana Pereira, USC, def. Rachael Dillon, VU, 7-6(3), 6-2
6. Madeleine Saari-Byström, USC, def. Hannah Blatt, VU, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3

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

1. #25 Preeg/Wu, VU, def. #24 Stojic/Zubori, USC, 8-6
2. Newman/Robertson, VU, def. Jocic/Saari-Byström, USC, 8-3
3. Morgina/Pereira, USC, def. Blatt/Dillon, VU, 8-6

Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1