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March 29, 2012

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 40 South Carolina hosts the last two matches of its inaugural season at Carolina Tennis Center this weekend, beginning with a 5 p.m. match on Fri., March 30, against No. 66 Alabama. The Gamecocks (13-7, 0-6 SEC) are participating in USTA Kids’ Day at the match, offering free pizza for the first 50 kids, a poster making station, prizes and an opportunity to take photos with the Gamecocks after the match. South Carolina then closes its home slate with a 1 p.m. contest against No. 15 Auburn on Sunday.

“Our number one goal this week is to have six full singles spots and three doubles spots all show up playing their best tennis this weekend,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “In our first six SEC matches this season, that has not been the case, but we have to put what’s happened in the past behind us. So, that’s been the goal of the week. And, if we do that, we’ll win and win a lot form this point on. We just need to get on the board, get one win in the SEC column, and I think this team will take off. It’s a case of belief for this young team, a belief in the right to win or that they deserve to win in this league.

“Playing under the lights Friday night is going to be great. It makes you feel like you’re playing better tennis. We all grew up watching the U.S. Open, and the night matches there are the greatest thing in the world. With the energy of a good crowd at night and coming off a great week of practice, I think it’s going to be a good weekend.”

With five freshmen on the roster, the Gamecocks have battled through one of the toughest conference schedules in the country. Still, there have been bright spots on the lineup card, beginning with freshman Thiago Pinheiro who is a team-best 3-3 in SEC matches in his first season at the college level. Overall, the Brazilian is 10-5, including a 6-1 record in the No. 5 singles spot. Sitting atop the team standings is freshman Andrew Adams with a 23-9 overall mark, including a 15-5 slate in dual matches. The Gamecock newcomer is 10-2 in the No. 2 singles spot and 5-2 in the No. 3 position, where he is expected to play this weekend. Senior Ivan Machado enters the weekend ranked No. 121 in the nation, while the doubles tandem of sophomores Nick Jones and Chip Cox totes a No. 47 ranking after toppling Ole Miss’ top duo, which was ranked No. 12 in the nation, last weekend to improve to 3-1 in league play.

No. 66 Alabama is looking to snap a three-match skid that has the Crimson Tide at 6-10 overall and 1-5 in SEC play. Alabama does not have a winning record at any of the six singles positions, but Ricky Doverspike is the team leader with eight dual-match wins. Freshman David Vieyra has the team’s best SEC record, going 3-3 in league matches, playing in the lower half of the lineup.

Auburn enters the weekend with a 14-5 overall record and a 3-3 mark in SEC action. The No. 15 Tigers travel to Florida for a Friday evening match before taking on the Gamecocks on Sunday. Auburn is third in the league’s Western Division as it faces a pair of Eastern Division foes this weekend. The Tigers’ top two singles players boast national rankings this week, led by Andreas Mies in the No. 27 spot. Playing at the top of the Auburn singles lineup, the junior is 9-5 in dual matches but has dropped his last two matches to fall to 2-4 in league play. In the No. 2 spot in the order is Alex Stamchev, ranked 77th in the nation, with a 4-1 SEC record and a 15-3 overall mark this season. The two combine to form the country’s No. 16 doubles tandem, toting a 5-0 record this season, including a 3-0 mark in dual matches.

The Gamecocks close the 2012 season with three road matches, beginning with next weekend’s trip to No. 27 LSU and No. 39 Arkansas.