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Feb. 3, 2012

February 3, 2012
Nick Jones

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina men’s tennis (5-0) goes on the road for its next three matches against Atlantic Coast Conference foes, beginning Sat., Feb. 4, at No. 22 Georgia Tech. The Gamecocks have lost just one team point in their first five wins, so the Garnet and Black is carrying momentum into the 1 p.m. matchup with its second ranked opponent of the year.

“We’re a very young team, so it was important for us to get wins early on,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “We’ve had all five freshmen play, and we wanted to start out our season getting guys experience and allowing them to grow as the season goes on. We’re getting ready to take on three ACC teams, which is one of the top conferences in the country. It’s definitely a bigger test [this weekend] coming up. As coaches, we’re excited to see how the guys come back and face that challenge.”

The Gamecocks have gotten stellar play from both veterans and newcomers through the first two weeks of competition. Senior Ivan Machado and freshman Andrew Adams are both a perfect 5-0 on the year in dual-match singles action, while sophomore Chip Cox and freshman Kyle Koch have each posted four wins to no losses. While he has been used sparingly, sophomore Nick Jones is undefeated in his two matches at the No. 1 singles spot.

Carolina has yet to lose a match at the No. 1 doubles spot, with the pairing of Jones and Koch logging four of the five wins there. The two have quickly become the Gamecocks’ top doubles tandem, knocking off the No. 19 ranked pairing in the nation last weekend. Adams and Cox have also formed an efficient pairing at the No. 3 spot, posting a 4-1 record on the year. The Brazilian partnership of Machado and freshman Thiago Pinheiro has also proved effective with a solid 3-1 mark to start the year.

“All three doubles teams are very good and could be interchanged one through three,” Goffi said. “They all do different things. At the No. 1 spot, we’ve got two big servers [in Jones and Koch]. They play a different style of doubles. It’s not necessarily the prettiest style, but they’ve got the `wow’ factor and hold serve pretty easily. At No. 2, we have Pinheiro and Machado. Machado has the best hands, the best volleys probably in college tennis. Pinheiro is the heart and soul of that team and has a great lefty serve that sets Machado up at the net. Our No. 3 team, Chip Cox and Andrew Adams, just take it to everybody. They’re there point-in and point-out. They show up every day, and they’re a tough team to beat.”

Georgia Tech enters the weekend coming off three straight losses to ranked teams to start the season with a 1-3 record. After dominating Old Dominion in their first match, the Yellow Jackets lost to No. 18 Tennessee, No. 16 Auburn and No. 19 Illinois. Senior Kevin King and junior Juan Spir headline the Georgia Tech lineup with impressive records in the 2011 season. King, Tech’s ace and the No. 9 player in the country, posted an impressive 19-4 record last year, which earned him All-ACC and ITA All-America honors. The Peachtree, Ga., product is 3-1 thus far this season. Spir comes into the 2012 season after a solid 11-9 year in 2011, during which he rose as high as No. 48 in the rankings. He is currently 2-2 in dual matches this year. King and Spir also combine to form the No. 2 doubles pairing in the nation. The duo went 17-6 last year, earning All-ACC and ITA All-America honors. Tech’s top tandem holds a lifetime 48-17 record together, including a 4-0 mark for the year so far. Like the Gamecocks, Georgia Tech only returns half of its roster for the 2012 season and will have to rely on youth in the Nos. 4-6 spots to win matches.