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April 16, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina pressured No. 16 Florida in several matches but came up short in a 4-0 loss to the Gators in SEC men’s tennis action at the USC Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks claimed the first sets in two of the first four singles matches on court, led by junior Ivan Machado who topped No. 45 Sekou Bangoura Jr. in a tiebreaker. The Gators managed to hold South Carolina at bay in the shortened match.

“In our final home match of the season, I am proud of how far we’ve come,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Florida is a very good, well coached team, and the scored wasn’t indicative of the match we played against them. We were facing three nationally ranked players in their lineup and hung in there against each one. It was evident today how hard the team has worked this season and that we are continuing to get better.”

Florida took an early edge in doubles as the nation’s 39th-ranked duo topped the Gamecocks’ top tandem of Alexander Kostanov and Chip Cox. In the No. 2 match, Machado and Harry Menzies fell behind by a break in the first game of the match, but drew even with Andrew Butz and Bob van Overbeek in the sixth game of the match. On Court 3, the Gamecock duo of Jake Bowling and Chris Sheehan scored the first break against Nassim Slilam and Billy Federhofer, ranked No. 90 in the country, for a 2-2 advantage. Both South Carolina teams gave their breaks back in the subsequent games, however. In the No. 3 match, Bowling and Sheehand held steady and were on serve at 3-5, but the Gators came through with another break to edge in front. Machado and Menzies, meanwhile, had their match back on serve with a tight break for 5-5. Slilam and Federhofer closed out the No. 3 contest with a final break for an 8-3 win to seal the doubles point for Florida, which suspended the No. 2 match.

In singles, van Overbeek doubled Florida’s advantage with a straight-set win in the No. 5 match, but Machado and Cox were both up in their Nos. 2 and 3 matches, respectively. Cox won his first set of No. 80 Slilam with a break in the final game, forcing his opponent into a cross-court forehand that fell wide for a 7-5 decision in Cox’s favor. In the No. 2 match, neither player held serve through the first three games until Machado fought for a 3-1 advantage on his second service game. Another break for a 5-2 advantage had Machado serving for the set, but Bangoura’s pinpoint passing shots helped him recover and draw even at 5-5. Machado had a break point in the next game but could not convert, eventually leading to a first-set tiebreaker. The Gamecock junior used penetrating serves and selective aggression for an efficient 7-4 win in the tiebreaker.

In the No. 1 match, Kostanov squared off with No. 7 Alexandre Lacroix. The Gators’ senior Frenchman won the first set 6-2 and was milking an early service break to a 5-3 advantage in the second. Kostanov continued to fight, however, with crisp ground strokes that helped him get the match back on serve with a break at 5-4 before Lacroix closed out the contest 6-4.

Florida was within a point of the victory when the final two matches took the court. Slilam had won the second set from Cox 6-1 in the No. 3 match and was building momentum in the third with a quick 4-1 lead. In the No. 2 match, Bangoura was finding his stride as well, delivering five straight wins over Machado. In the No. 5 contest, Menzies and Federhofer were marking each other stroke for stroke as the match was on serve at 5-4 when Slilam closed out Cox 6-2 in the third to clinch the match for Florida. As with doubles, all play was suspended when the team outcome had been decided.

South Carolina heads to Gainesville, Fla., next week for the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks will be the No. 11 seed in the event and will open play on Thu., April 21.

No. 16 Florida 4, South Carolina 0

Doubles (Order of Finish: 1, 3)
1. (39) Alexandre Lacroix/Sekou Bangoura (UF) def. Alexander Kostanov / Chip Cox (SC) 8-1
2. Ivan Machado/Harry Menzies (SC) led Andrew Butz/Bob van Overbeek (UF) 6-5 suspended
3. (90) Nassim Slilam/Billy Federhofer (UF) def. Jake Bowling/Chris Sheehan (SC) 8-3

Singles (Order of Finish: (4, 1, 3)
1. (7) Alexandre Lacroix (UF) def. Alexander Kostanov (SC) 6-2, 6-4
2. Ivan Machado (SC) led (45) Sekou Bangoura Jr (UF) 7-6 (4), 2-5 suspended
3. (80) Nassim Slilam (UF) def. Chip Cox (SC) 5-7, 6-1, 6-2
4. Bob van Overbeek (UF) def. Johannes Pulsfort (SC) 6-0, 6-2
5. Billy Federhofer (UF) led Harry Menzies (SC) 5-4 suspended
6. Spencer Newman (UF) led Chris Sheehan (SC) 6-0 suspended