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Jan. 11, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 39 South Carolina opens its spring season on Sat., Jan. 12, with a doubleheader against Charlotte and Presbyterian. Both matches will be played at the USC Indoor Facility, beginning with Charlotte at 10 a.m. The Gamecocks return at 4 p.m. to take on the Blue Hose. Admission to all tennis matches is free.

Six Gamecocks return from last season’s NCAA Tournament team, and head coach Josh Goffi added a transfer to bolster the top of the order. Junior Chip Cox led the way in the fall with an 8-3 record that included a spot in the consolation final of the ITA Carolina Regional. Sophomore Kyle Koch followed a strong summer with a hard-fought 6-4 fall record. He was a finalist at the UTC/Steve Baras Fall Classic and finished third in his bracket at the Duke Fab Four to open the season. Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro spent the summer adding weapons to his game, and his 5-2 fall record showed the work paid off as he won the consolation final at the ITA Carolina Regional. Senior Harry Menzies picked up four singles wins in the fall, and sophomore Ben Barnette added three. The duo combined for the Gamecocks’ lone main draw title of the fall, winning the top bracket of the Carolinas Invitational at Winthrop to close out the fall season. Junior transfer Tsvetan Mihov joined the Gamecocks in the fall and will make his debut in the Garnet and Black this spring. The Bulgarian played two seasons at Oklahoma, recording 20 or more singles wins in each to see his rank climb as high as No. 38 in the nation.

Charlotte enters the spring season with a pair of dual-match victories already in the books as the 49ers topped Belmont-Abbey and Johnson C. Smith University in a doubleheader in late September. Charlotte has eight underclassmen on its roster, but the 49ers have the potential to make some noise this season. Jordi Massallé Ferrer and Jack Williams each reached double figures in singles victories in the fall with 12 and 11, respectively. Sophomores Alex Calott and Paul Cisti both earned Second-Team All-Atlantic 10 honors last season.

Presbyterian also added a pair of dual-match victories in the fall to open the spring season with a 2-0 record. The Blue Hose return a veteran roster and look to ride the momentum of last season’s runner-up finish at the Big South Conference Championship. Presbyterian returns its top two players from last season’s effort in juniors Rafael Berghaus and Grayson Mills, who earned all-conference honors in 2011-12.

This weekend’s matches will join those around the country implementing new rules this spring, the most significant of which impact doubles play. Any game in a doubles match that goes to deuce will be decided by the next point with the receiving team selecting which player will receive serve on that point. Additionally, any doubles match that is tied at 7-7 will move directly to a tiebreaker to decide the match.

South Carolina will follow this week’s doubleheader with another one next Saturday, hosting Furman and Appalachian State at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. Those matches will also be at the USC Indoor Facility, which is located at the corner of Whaley and South Marion Streets.