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March 17, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina suffered a 6-1 defeat to No. 56 VCU in men’s tennis action at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center Thursday afternoon. The Gamecocks fought down to the wire for the doubles point and saw a pair of singles matches decided in the third set, but could not finish off the Rams. Sophomore Harry Menzies recorded the lone point for South Carolina (6-9, 1-3 SEC) with a straight-set win in the No. 6 matchup.

“I’m disappointed in way the team competed today,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “We’re close in a lot of matches, but the scores aren’t showing it. We need to get tougher. A tough team shouldn’t go away in the deciding moments of matches, and that’s something we haven’t been able to establish on a consistent basis.”

The Gamecocks were off to a good start in doubles as Alexander Kostanov and Chip Cox cruised to an 8-2 win in the No. 2 contest. The Rams answered with a come-from-behind win in the No. 3 match, leaving the point in the hands of the two top tandems. South Carolina’s duo of Ivan Machado and Nick Jones struck first when Machado’s volley split the VCU team to finish off a service break for a 4-3 Gamecock lead. The advantage held through the next six games, but a pair of double faults helped the Rams level the match at 7-7. In the tiebreaker, it was all VCU as Jaime Vazquez and Camill Salomon closed out the point with a 7-2 win.

In singles play, the Gamecocks jumped out to a quick start with early service breaks in four of the six matches, but the Rams held the course, slowly chipping their way back into two of those four matches. The Gamecock firing on all cylinders throughout the match was Menzies, who handily dismantled Filip Svensson 6-1, 6-2 to put the Gamecocks on the scoreboard and level the match at 1-1. Menzies broke Svensson in the first game of the match and in the second game of the second set to set the tone for his career-best eighth singles victory of the season.

VCU’s Max Wennakoski topped Kostanov 6-2, 6-3 in the No. 2 match, using a pair of early breaks in the first set and a streak of five straight games to close the second set, giving the Rams a 2-1 edge. In the No. 4 match, Jones suffered a similar first-set fate to Kostanov. After he and Antoine Baroz traded breaks two games into the set, Jones surged ahead 4-3 with another break. The Gamecock freshman struggled to consistently find the right depth on his groundstrokes late in the set, though, allowing Baroz to come back for a 7-5 win. Jones continued to struggle in the second set, falling behind 1-3 as Baroz posted an early service break, which he consolidated with another one in the final game to win the set 6-2. The win brought VCU within one point of the match victory.

VCU needed to close out just one of the remaining three singles matches on court. The Gamecocks held a set lead in just one of them with all the second sets at 4-3 in favor of the Rams.

Cox scored a pair of early breaks in his first set against VCU’s No. 3, Vazquez, but errant ground strokes late in the set sent it to a tiebreaker, which Vazquez would claim 7-2. Cox’s disappointment carried over to the first game of the second set as his serve was broken for an early 0-1 deficit. The freshman rallied to stay even through the rest of the set, trailing just the one game, 4-5, heading into Vazquez’s final service game. The Rams’ sophomore delivered the team victory with a solid final game.

In the No. 5 match, Johannes Pulsfort stormed through the first set 6-2 over Salomon before play evened out in the second set. After Salomon broke Pulsfort at 2-2, he won a marathon fifth game to stay on serve in the set. The set see-sawed back and forth until a pair of stray forehands from Pulsfort yielded another service break and a 6-4 second-set win for Salomon. He went on to win the super tiebreaker 10-7.

The most evenly played match of the day came from the team’s top two players – Machado and Tim Johannsen. A late service break delivered the first set to Johannsen 6-3. He was poised to close out the match, scoring an early break for a 2-1 lead in the second set as well. With his back to the wall trailing 4-5, Machado finally broke through Johannsen’s serve. The two traded service breaks in the next two games to send the set to a tiebreaker. The extra points nearly all went Machado’s way as he turned a 3-0 edge into a 7-1 win, punctuated with an ace on set point. The Gamecock junior carried that moment through to the super tiebreaker that would decide the match, carving up Johannsen from the net en route to a 7-3 lead. The senior from Germany had other ideas, though, mounting a furious rally behind a pair of service returns that left Machado picking volleys off his shoestrings. When Machado’s backhand service return sailed wide, Johannsen had evened the tiebreaker a 7-7. Three more errant shots at the end of long rallies sealed Machado’s fate, and Johannsen closed with a 10-7 victory.

South Carolina will host Mississippi State on Sat., March 19, at 1 p.m. before archrival Clemson visits on Wed., March 23.

No. 56 VCU 6, South Carolina 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1)
1. Jaime Vazquez/Camill Salomon (VCU) def. Ivan Machado / Nick Jones (SC) 9-8 (2)
2. Alexander Kostanov / Chip Cox (SC) def. Tim Johannsen/Antoine Baroz (VCU) 8-2
3. Max Wennakoski/Filip Svensson (VCU) def. Johannes Pulsfort / Chris Sheehan (SC) 8-6

Singles (Order of Finish: (6, 2, 4, 3, 5, 1)
1. Tim Johannsen (VCU) def. Ivan Machado (SC) 6-3, 6-7 (1), 1-0 (7)
2. Max Wennakoski (VCU) def. Alexander Kostanov (SC) 6-2, 6-3
3. Jaime Vazquez (VCU) def. Chip Cox (SC) 7-6 (2), 6-4
4. Antoine Baroz (VCU) def. Nick Jones (SC) 7-5, 6-2
5. Camill Salomon (VCU) def. Johannes Pulsfort (SC) 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (7)
6. Harry Menzies (SC) def. Filip Svensson (VCU) 6-1, 6-2