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Feb. 28, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In the first set of computer-based rankings this season, South Carolina men’s tennis skyrocketed up to No. 22 in the Campbell/ITA Team Rankings after the voting system had the Gamecocks at No. 46 last week. It is the program’s highest ranking since the week of April 5, 2005. Head coach Josh Goffi has guided his team, bolstered by the arrival of last year’s No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, at 10-1 on the season heading into Southeastern Conference play this weekend.

“[Assistant] coach [Matt] Lucas and I are happy for our guys to be on a top-25 team,” Goffi said. “They’ve worked extremely hard and have bought into everything we have said. But, it’s a long season, and we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We are heading into the SEC season, and the competition is the toughest in the country. We are going to continue focusing more on the team goals that we set for each match and not as much on the rankings.”

The Gamecocks have defeated five ranked opponents so far this season, including three on the road. South Carolina’s 10-1 start matches that of the 2009 team, which extended that mark to 12-1 with a pair of wins in the opening weekend of conference play. This season began with seven straight wins, the first five of which earned the Gamecocks the No. 69 spot in the rankings the first week of February. The seven-match stretch also included a win at then-No. 22 Georgia Tech for the highest-ranked win of the Goffi era.

On an individual level, the Gamecocks have been buoyed by strong doubles play and steady performances by players in the lower half of the singles lineup. With as many as four freshmen in the singles lineup at times, Goffi and assistant coach Matt Lucas created a schedule that would build their young team’s confidence steadily, providing challenges the group was able to overcome with maximum effort, as preparation for play in one of the elite tennis conferences in the nation. The SEC has eight team’s in this week’s top 25, three more than any other league.

South Carolina begins the rigors of SEC play, starting with a 2:30 p.m. match against No. 6 Georgia on Fri., Mar. 2, at Carolina Tennis Center, weather permitting. The No. 19 Tennessee Vols then come to Columbia for a 1 p.m. contest on Sun., Mar. 4.