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April 23, 2010

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Coach Elkins
Dijana Stojic (left) and Miljana Jocic (right)

ATHENS, Ga. – South Carolina’s 16th-ranked and fifth-seeded women’s tennis team (16-7, 7-4 SEC) defeated No. 15 and fourth-seeded Georgia (12-8, 8-3 SEC) in a 4-1 decision Friday in Athens, Ga., in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks next face No. 3 and top-seeded Florida (22-2, 11-0 SEC) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex at 10 a.m. Saturday in the semifinals.

“We had a really good match,” Gamecock head coach Arlo Elkins said. “Earlier in the season, we played a close match and lost but we won a close match today. Both teams played well, but we were glad to come out with the victory. Everybody worked hard. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, we’re just glad that we came out with the win.”

Unlike the regular-season match-up two weeks ago, South Carolina took control of the match by winning the doubles point. On court three, Adriana Pereira and Madeleine Saari-Byström of South Carolina lost the first three games to Lara Fakhoury and Naoko Ueshima. Pereira and Saari-Byström then stormed back by winning eight games in a row to take the match.

The Gamecocks’ No. 2 duo of Miljana Jocic and Anya Morgina appeared ready to clinch the point with Jocic serving up 40-15, but Cameron Ellis and Yvette Hyndman fought back and eventually tied the score at 7-all. Before the match could finish, though, South Carolina won the match on court one to lead 1-0.

South Carolina’s No. 1 team of Ana Marija Zubori and Dijana Stojic, who are ranked 18th, trailed the nation’s No. 6 team of Nadja Gilchrist and Chelsey Gullickson 7-5. Zubori and Stojic then fought back to make it 7-all and eventually led 8-7 before Gilchrist and Gullickson forced a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Georgia had two match points up 6-4, but Stojic and Zubori won the next four points to pull off the victory.

In singles, Stojic recorded the Gamecocks’ first point with a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over Gilchrist on court. Gilchrist came in having won all three prior career match-ups with Stojic. Gilchrist is the second-highest ranked player Stojic has beaten in her career at No. 41.

Pereira continued her impressive freshman campaign with a 7-6(8), 6-1 victory against Ellis at the No. 5 singles slot to improve to 24-9 overall and 16-4 in dual matches. In the tiebreaker, Pereira was down 3-1 and 5-3 before getting it back to 5-all. On her fourth set point of the breaker, Pereira forced Ellis into an unforced error to gain the momentum heading to the second set. Pereira needed less than 45 minutes to win the second set to put Carolina on top 3-0.

The Bulldogs scored their first and only point at No. 1 singles with Gullickson defeating Zubori 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-2. Zubori faced a 5-2 deficit and two match points in the second set before charging back to win the set in a tiebreaker. Gullickson, though, was on point with her shots in the third set, hitting powerful winners to take the match.

Jocic lifted South Carolina to victory with her straight-set victory over Ueshima on court four. Jocic grinded her way to a 7-5 victory in the first-set tiebreaker and then took a 5-3 lead in the second. Ueshima countered to take the next game to make it 5-4, but Jocic continued to play long points in the 10th game and it paid dividends with a 6-4 victory. Jocic improved to 27-6 on the season with the win and 16-3 in dual matches.

“I am just so full of emotion right now,” Jocic said following the match. “This feels so good. We’ve had a great season so far and have really had to adjust to having five freshmen. We lost two players at the beginning of the season in doubles so we also had to adjust there. We’ve just worked really hard and have been waiting for the postseason because we knew we could get here, we just needed time.”

The Gamecocks were in control of the two matches suspended. Morgina and Hyndman split sets and Morgina had a 5-3 lead in the third, while Saari-Byström and Fakhoury split sets as well and Saari-Byström led 5-1 in the third set.

South Carolina’s 4-1 win snapped a 12-match losing streak to Georgia, marking their first win over the Bulldogs since beating them 4-2 on April 20, 2002, in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in Columbia, S.C. Georgia was ranked No. 1 at the time.

The Gamecocks are making their third appearance in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament and their first since 2002. South Carolina’s first trip to the semis came in 1999 when the Gamecocks lost to Florida 5-1 in Baton Rouge, La.

#16 South Carolina (16-7, 7-4 SEC) def. #15 Georgia (12-8, 8-3 SEC), 4-1

1. #13 Chelsey Gullickson, UG, def. #48 Ana Marija Zubori, USC, 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-2
2. #108 Dijana Stojic, USC, def. #41 Nadja Gilchrist, UG, 6-1, 6-3
3. #125 Anya Morgina, USC, vs. Yvette Hyndman, UG, 3-6, 6-4, 5-3 suspended
4. Miljana Jocic, USC, def. Naoko Ueshima, UG, 7-6(5), 6-4
5. Adriana Pereira, USC, def. Cameron Ellis, UG, 7-6(8), 6-1
6. Madeleine Saari-Byström, USC, vs. Lara Fakhoury, UG, 4-6, 6-4, 5-1 suspended

Order of Finish: 2, 5, 1, 4

1. #18 Stojic/Zubori, USC, def. #6 Gilchrist/Gullickson, UG, 9-8(6)
2. Jocic/Morgina, USC, vs. #90 Ellis/Hyndman, UG, 7-7 suspended
3. Pereira/Saari-Byström, USC, def. Fakhoury/Ueshima, UG, 8-3

Order of Finish: 3, 1