Feb. 10, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 48 South Carolina wraps up its three-game road stretch against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents with a 1 p.m. match at No. 51 NC State on Sat., Feb. 11. The Gamecocks are a perfect 7-0 on the season and are coming off a pair of emotional wins over their previous to ranked opponents.
“It’s been a good stretch for us, and we are looking forward to playing NC State on Saturday,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “It’s a team that beat us 7-0 last season, so it will be a different kind of pressure going into the match. NC State is an extremely well coached team that is very disciplined and deep this season. On paper, I feel it is going to be the toughest match on our non-conference schedule.”
The Gamecocks gutted out a 4-3 win at No. 42 Wake Forest on Thursday afternoon as the Demon Deacons took the final two matches to three sets. Freshman Thiago Pinheiro delivered the final point under the pressure of a third-set tiebreaker in just the third singles match of his college career. It has been the lower half of the singles lineup that has propelled the Gamecocks to their first 7-0 start since 2007 – a season that did not include matches against any ranked opponents during the win streak. With a sophomore and two freshmen manning the Nos. 4-6 spots, South Carolina has lost just point from the group in its seven dual matches this season.
Doubles has been another reliable point for the Gamecocks this season. Goffi has settled into using three strong teams that each bring something different to the table. South Carolina has won the doubles point in every match and has swept the three doubles contests in four of its seven outings.
NC State enters the weekend with a 7-1 record after sweeping a Sunday doubleheader against No. 45 Cornell and Charlotte. The Wolfpack’s lone loss came against then-No. 7 Kentucky at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event in Lexington, Ky. Jaime Pulgar has carried the weight of the No. 1 singles position for NC State, going 6-1 on the season. Freshman Austin Powell is ranked No. 100 in the country behind his 13-4 overall record, which includes a 5-0 mark in dual-match play. Powell has posted three of those wins in the No. 4 spot in the lineup. Like the Gamecocks, the Wolfpack has not lost many of its doubles matches. Only Kentucky managed to win the doubles point from NC State, which accounted for three of the team’s five total doubles losses.
The Gamecocks face one more road test, at No. 46 UNC Wilmington on Sat., Feb. 18, before, weather permitting, they make their debut in the new Carolina Tennis Center. South Carolina hosts Furman at 10 a.m. on Sat., Feb. 25, before taking on Charlotte at 4 p.m. that day. The doubleheader will be the Gamecocks’ final tune-up before opening SEC play on Fri., March 2, at home against No. 4 Georgia.