March 8, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 33 South Carolina faces its first SEC road matches this weekend, traveling to No. 7 Kentucky and No. 49 Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks take on the Wildcats, who have four players ranked among the nation’s top 100 in singles, on Fri., March 9, at 1 p.m. South Carolina then heads to Nashville to face the Commodores at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sun., March 11.
The Gamecocks are 10-3 on the season after dropping their SEC matches last weekend. South Carolina’s high point of the matches was freshman Thiago Pinheiro who preserved his undefeated dual-match record with a pair of victories. The first was a straight-set victory over the 47th-ranked singles player in the country, making it the Brazilian’s first win over a ranked opponent and the highest-ranked foe any Gamecock has defeated this season. Pinheiro followed with a convincing super-tiebreaker win over his counterpart from Tennessee after the two split the first two sets in the No. 6 singles spot. Sophomore Nick Jones, ranked No. 92 in the nation, also put up a good showing last weekend, taking the nation’s No. 36 player to three sets on Sunday before succumbing in a tiebreaker. Jones’ level of determination and fight throughout the match bode well for the rest of the SEC season as he will face the league’s elite players in the No. 1 singles position.
Kentucky enters Friday’s match with a 13-3 overall record and a 2-0 mark in SEC action. The Wildcats’ only losses have been to other teams ranked in the nation’s top 10, and all three were on the road. Kentucky’s top four singles players and top doubles team are all ranked among the nation’s top 100, led by Eric Quigley. The senior is No. 6 in the country this week behind a 33-5 record that includes a 10-0 mark in dual matches. He teams with Panav Jha to form the nation’s No. 27 doubles team, which boasts a 10-6 record but is just 5-4 in dual matches. On the singles side, Anthony Rossi plays in the No. 3 spot in the Wildcat order with a No. 14 national ranking as he is 26-2 this season. Alex Musialek is close behind with a 18-6 record that has him ranked 16th in the nation, playing in the No. 2 spot for Kentucky. Tom Jomby rounds out the quartet of top-100 players, coming in at 98th with his 16-7 singles record.
Standing at 7-5 overall, Vanderbilt kicks off the weekend against Florida before hosting the Gamecocks on Sunday. Like South Carolina, the Commodores are looking for their first SEC win of the season and to snap a three-match losing streak. Vanderbilt is 2-7 against ranked teams this season with wins against then-No. 64 Northwestern and then-No. 49 BYU. Currently ranked No. 62 in the country, senior Charlie Jones headlines the youthful Vanderbilt roster. He is 9-3 in dual matches this season, playing in the top spot in the Commodores’ lineup. Freshman Gonzales Austin is also 9-3 this spring, including an 8-3 mark in the No. 2 spot in the order.
After this weekend’s action, South Carolina steps out of conference play for a week, traveling to rival Clemson for a 1 p.m. match on Wed., March 14, before hosting College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina in a doubleheader on Sun., March 18, at Carolina Tennis Center.