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March 6, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina dropped a hard-fought 5-2 decision to No. 53 LSU in SEC men’s tennis action at the USC Fieldhouse Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks (5-6, 1-1 SEC) battled to the bitter end, but saw the Tigers (4-6, 1-1 SEC) pull out the last two victories within minutes of each other to steal the win. Doubles partners Alexander Kostanov and Chip Cox won both matches they played to lead the way for South Carolina.

“It was a great match, and LSU just played extremely well in the big moments,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “I’m proud of the way our team fought to the very end, and that’s a positive step for us. We’re looking forward to heading to Charleston this week to face The Citadel before we get right back into conference play next weekend.”

The match was close right from the onset with the doubles point coming down to a tiebreaker in the No. 3 match. South Carolina opened with an 8-4 win from Kostanov and Cox in the No. 2 doubles match, but LSU answered quickly with a win in the top spot by their 17th-ranked duo of Neal Skupski and Sebastian Carlsson. In the No. 3 match, Johannes Pulsfort and Chris Sheehan were trailing after an early service break, but got back on serve at 3-4 with a break of Stefan Szacinski’s serve. Tied at 6-6, LSU’s Roger Anderson delivered a booming serve to put the Tiger tandem up 7-6. Pulsfort breezed through his served game to level the match, and Sheehan’s hold sent the match to a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker was on serve until the Tigers snatched a point on Pulsfort’s serve to go up 6-4. The teams split each of the next seven points before the Tigers held the first point of Anderson’s serve to collect the win.

The Tigers made it a 3-0 lead with wins in the Nos. 1 and 2 singles matches, but the Gamecocks held off the clinching victory as Cox held off Mark Bowtell in the No. 4 match 6-4, 7-6 (5). The Gamecock freshman used a late break to win the first set and overcame a late break of his own serve to send the second set into a tiebreaker. On serve but trailing 3-4 in the tiebreaker, Cox overpowered Bowtell to win four of the next five points and put the Gamecocks on the scoreboard.

The final three matches, including Kostanov’s marathon three-setter, finished in rapid succession. The Tigers clinched the win with Julien Gauthier’s 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Harry Menzies in the No. 6 match, but the match’s drama continued to unfold on Court 3 with Kostanov facing Stefan Szacinski. After dropping the first set 4-6 when Szacinski broke his serve, Kostanov got service breaks in each of his opponent’s first two service games of the second set and held on to win the set 6-4. Down the stretch, both players struggled to hold serve as the server did not win each of the last four games. The battle continued in the third-set tiebreaker until Szacinski’s volley into the net gave Kostanov the victory.

The Gamecocks step out of conference play for a mid-week match at The Citadel on Wed., March 9, before continuing their three-match road swing at Auburn and Alabama on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

No. 53 LSU 5, South Carolina 2

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3)
1. (17) Neal Skupski/Sebastian Carlsson (LSU) def. Ivan Machado / Nick Jones (SC) 8-3
2. Alexander Kostanov / Chip Cox (SC) def. Olivier Borsos/Tom Knights (LSU) 8-4
3. Roger Anderson/Stefan Szacinski (LSU) def. Johannes Pulsfort / Chris Sheehan (SC) 9-8 (7)

Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 2, 4, 6, 3, 5)
1. (69) Neal Skupski (LSU) def. Ivan Machado (SC) 6-1, 6-3
2. Olivier Borsos (LSU) def. Nick Jones (SC) 6-2, 6-1
3. Alexander Kostanov (SC) def. Stefan Szacinski (LSU), 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5)
4. Chip Cox (SC) def. Mark Bowtell (LSU) 6-4, 7-6 (5)
5. Sebastian Carlsson (LSU) def. Johannes Pulsfort (SC) 6-3, 6-4
6. Julien Gauthier (LSU) def. Harry Menzies (SC) 7-6 (1), 6-3