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March 10, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina men’s tennis travels to the state of Alabama to play its first two road SEC matches of the season. Coming off Wednesday’s sweep of The Citadel, the Gamecocks first take on No. 26 Auburn on Fri., March 11, at 3 p.m. (ET) then head to Tuscaloosa to face No. 35 Alabama on Sun., March 13, at 2 p.m. (ET).

Sophomore Alexander Kostanov leads the Gamecocks with a 14-9 overall record and an 8-3 mark in dual matches. He is undefeated through the first two SEC matches of the season and is riding a three-match winning streak in singles action. He teams with freshman Chip Cox to form the Gamecocks’ No. 2 doubles team, and the tandem is 2-1 in dual matches this season. Junior Ivan Machado has 10 singles wins on the season and has been manning the No. 1 spot in the Gamecocks’ dual-match lineup. Cox is off to a quick start to his college career with a 7-3 record, including a 3-1 mark in the No. 3 singles position. South Carolina’s doubles team of seniors Johannes Pulsfort and Chris Sheehan has a team-best four wins so far this season, including a 3-2 mark in the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

Ranked 26th in the nation behind a 7-5 record, Auburn had a tough start to SEC play, dropping matches to No. 2 Tennessee and No. 9 Georgia on opening weekend. The Tigers boast three nationally ranked players in their six-man singles lineup. Senior Tim Puetz headlines the group at No. 23 behind an 8-2 overall record that includes a 7-2 mark in the top spot in the Auburn lineup. Junior Alex Stamchev has a No. 104 ranking as he is 7-6 this season but has dropped his last three matches. Sophomore Andreas Mies leads the Tigers with 13 singles wins and is undefeated this season to sit at No. 117 in the rankings. He has played a majority of dual matches in the No. 6 spot, going 8-0 in the position. The Tigers do not fall off on the doubles side, either, with a pair of nationally ranked duos. Puetz teams with Daniel Cochrane for the nation’s No. 43 tandem behind a 5-4 record in the No. 1 spot in the lineup. Playing in the No. 2 spot, Stamchev and Mies are 6-3 this spring to rank No. 45 in the country.

Auburn has a 14-10 advantage in the all-time series with the Gamecocks and has won the last four matchups. South Carolina’s last win over the Tigers was a 4-3 victory in Columbia on March 31, 2006. The Gamecocks’ last win in Auburn came in 1992, their first season competing in the SEC.

Like Auburn, Alabama dropped its opening weekend matches to Tennessee and Georgia but holds onto a No. 35 ranking with a 7-4 overall record, including four wins over ranked opponents. Junior Michael Thompson has a team-best 15-7 record for the Crimson Tide, going 6-2 in the No. 5 spot in the singles lineup. Fellow junior Ricky Doverspike holds down the No. 1 position in dual matches with a 5-4 record in the spot to lift his overall mark to 10-11 on the season. Another junior Vikram Reddy rounds out the trio of double-digit winners for Alabama with an 11-9 record that includes a 4-4 mark playing in the No. 3 spot in the order. He teams with Thompson to form the nation’s No. 62 doubles team with a 3-3 overall record.

Alabama leads the series with the Gamecocks 20-14 after winning the last two meetings. South Carolina’s last win over the Crimson Tide was a 4-3 decision in the 2008 SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks last won in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 25, 2005, by a 6-1 score.

South Carolina returns from its three-match road swing to host No. 53 Virginia Commonwealth on Thu., March 17, at 2 p.m. at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center.