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March 11, 2011

AUBURN, Ala. – South Carolina battled No. 26 Auburn to the bitter end, but came up short against the nationally-ranked Tigers 6-1 in SEC men’s tennis action Friday afternoon at Yarbrough Tennis Center. Four of the nine matches were decided by tiebreakers, including three singles matches that went to three sets. Freshman Chip Cox recorded the Gamecocks’ lone point in a three-set battle in the No. 4 singles spot to extend his record to a team-best 8-3 in dual-match play.

“Overall, it was a good match,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Our guys fought hard for the doubles point, and we were in there until the very end. If we keep doing that, we may surprise a few teams this year. The players are eager to get back on the court against Alabama on Sunday.”

Facing a pair of ranked doubles teams, the Gamecocks stretched both matches to extra frames in the hunt for the victory. Auburn won the No. 3 doubles match, leaving it up to South Carolina’s top two teams to knock off the pair of ranked opponents. In the No. 2 match, Alexander Kostanov and Cox had No. 46 Alex Stamchev and Andreas Mies on the ropes and were on serve through 7-7. The Tiger duo scraped out the next two games to seal the early lead for Auburn. In the No. 1 match, Ivan Machado and Nick Jones continued to battle, taking the nation’s No. 43 team to a tiebreaker before succumbing.

In singles action, the Tigers boasted three players with national rankings, but the Gamecocks were up for the fight. Trailing 0-3 after Johannes Pulsfort was forced to retire in the No. 5 singles match and Jones fell to the nation’s 104th-ranked player in the No. 3 match, Kostanov pushed Tim Hewitt to a first-set tiebreaker in the No. 2 contest. Machado took the first set from No. 23 Puetz in the No. 1 match, and Harry Menzies had a one-set lead in the No. 6 match. Cox had dropped his first set to Daniel Cochrane, but rallied to win the second set in a tiebreaker.

While the Gamecocks were making their late push, though, Kostanov had lost his first-set tiebreaker, and Hewitt went on to win the match 7-6, 6-0 to clinch the win for Auburn. With the match decided, the three matches that were knotted at a set each went to super tiebreakers. Cox was in the most strident battle, coming out on top 11-9.

South Carolina heads to No. 35 Alabama for a 2 p.m. (ET) match on Sun., March 13, before returning to Columbia to host VCU on Thu., March 17, at 2 p.m. at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center.

No. 26 Auburn 6, South Carolina 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1
1. (43) Tim Puetz/Daniel Cochrane (AUB) def. Ivan Machado / Nick Jones (SC) 9-8 (4)
2. (46) Alex Stamchev/Andreas Mies (AUB) def. Alexander Kostanov / Chip Cox (SC) 9-7
3. Tim Hewitt/Rafael Rondino (AUB) def. Johannes Pulsfort / Chris Sheehan (SC) 8-5

Singles (Order of Finish: 5, 3, 2, 1, 4, 6)
1. (23) Tim Puetz (AUB) def. Ivan Machado (SC) 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (5)
2. Tim Hewitt (AUB) def. Alexander Kostanov (SC) 7-6 (3), 6-0
3. (104) Alex Stamchev (AUB) def. Nick Jones (SC) 6-3, 6-0
4. Chip Cox (SC) def. Daniel Cochrane (AUB) 1-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (9)
5. (117) Andreas Mies (AUB) def. Johannes Pulsfort (SC) 6-0, 5-0 ret.
6. Rafael Rondino (AUB) def. Harry Menzies (SC) 3-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (6)