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Feb. 2, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 47 South Carolina was aggressive in every match en route to a 6-1 win over No. 65 Georgia Tech in the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader at USC Field House. The Gamecocks (5-2) won the doubles point for the seventh-straight match, and junior Tsvetan Mihov set the tone in singles with a commanding 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 32 Juan Spir at the top of the singles lineup.

“I was really impressed with the way the team approached the doubleheader today, especially knowing we had just a tough match to start out,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “All three doubles teams came out aggressive and ready to play. Tsvetan [Mihov] and Chip [Cox] had a tough task against the No. 3 team in the country, and got off to a slow start. But they stayed with it, and starting playing exactly the way we wanted them to to get back in the match. The whole team did a great job of carrying the momentum from doubles into singles, the best transition we’ve had all year between the two. It was great to see all four courts put the pressure on to get good leads early, and, other than a hiccup on one court, it was a good day for our team.”

The Gamecocks continued their streak of winning the doubles point in every match this season. Ben Barnette and Thiago Pinheiro struck first in the No. 3 match with an 8-2 win over Eduardo Segura and Garrett Gordon. The South Carolina duo scored an early service break and doubled their advantage with another to take a 5-1 lead. Segura and Gordon looked to rally with a break in the next game, but the Gamecocks broke back immediately to stop the effort. As the Yellow Jackets’ tandem served to stay in the match, Barnette and Pinheiro kept the pressure on, closing the match with crisp returns and a Georgia Tech double fault. In the No. 2 match, Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies played Juan Melian and Nathan Rakitt even as neither team could hold serve until the Gamecocks did for a 4-2 advantage. Menzies turned in a great return game on the next frame to go up 5-2, and the Gamecocks held on for an 8-4 win that clinched the doubles point. While those matches went in the Gamecocks’ favor early, the No. 1 match did not. Chip Cox and Mihov fell behind the nation’s third-ranked team of Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir 4-1, but the Gamecock duo persevered. Cox’s aggressive play at the net shortened points to put the Yellow Jackets on their heels, and his hard forehand up the line sealed the service break to get back on serve at 5-6. The teams traded service games and were just starting their tiebreak when play was suspended.

In singles, Mihov wasted no time putting Spir on the back foot, striking first and controlling points to a 5-0 lead against his ranked opponent. Meanwhile, Pinheiro’s charging volley delivered the first service break of the No. 3 match to give him a 3-1 advantage over Hundal, and Koch broke Rakitt to go up 4-2 on Court 4. The momentum of Mihov closing out the first set 6-1 with a service winner carried over to the other courts as well. Cox got back on serve with a break at 3-3 over Melian, and Pinheiro added another before closing out his first set 6-1.

Cox and Koch helped the Gamecocks complete a sweep of the first sets on each court. Cox broke Melian’s serve in the final game for at 6-4 victory, while Koch put away an overhead to claim his first set 6-3. Mihov broke Spir in the first game of their second set and added another for a 4-1 lead. Mihov’s command of his foe never waivered in the 6-2 second set as he collected his first win over a ranked opponent at South Carolina.

Pinheiro also kept up the pressure in his second set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead over Hundal. Georgia Tech’s sophomore got one of the breaks back and had double break point to even the set, but Pinheiro fought off both to hold his serve and take a 5-3 advantage that he turned into a 6-4 win on Hundal’s forehand long on match point.

One point away from the team victory, Cox was in a battle with Melian after the two traded service breaks to open the second set. The Gamecock junior earned a tough hold to make it 6-5 and pushed past Melian for a 7-5 win that clinched the team victory for South Carolina. The No. 4 match went into a third set as Koch struggled to hold his serve in a 6-3 second. Rakitt completed the comeback with an early service break in the third that he rode to a 6-4 win to get the Yellow Jackets on the board.

In the last two matches on court, Menzies opened strong against Segura to go up 3-0 but saw the Yellow Jackets’ Spaniard rally to win the first set 4-6. Menzies fell behind in the second set but fought through to break Segura at Love to get back on serve 4-4. The set went into a tiebreak that Menzies won 7-6 (4) with solid play at the net. The senior battled out the super tiebreak to decide the match 10-8 with strong serves and well-placed volleys late. Barnette had no such difficulty as he sprinted past Anish Sharma 6-2, 6-1 in the No. 6 match.

The Gamecocks waste little time getting back on the courts, hosting Wofford in a 4 p.m. start at the USC Field House.

#47 South Carolina 6, #65 Georgia Tech 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2)
1. Chip Cox / Tsvetan Mihov (SC) tied (3) Vikram Hundal/Juan Spir (GT) 7-7 suspended
2. Kyle Koch/Harry Menzies (SC) def. Juan Melian/Nathan Rakitt (GT) 8-4
3. Ben Barnette/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Eduardo Segura/Garrett Gordon (GT) 8-2

Singles (Order of Finish: (1, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5)
1. Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. (32) Juan Spir (GT) 6-1, 6-2
2. Chip Cox (SC) def. Juan Melian (GT) 6-4, 7-5
3. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Vikram Hundal (GT) 6-1, 6-4
4. Nathan Rakitt (GT) def. Kyle Koch (SC) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
5. Harry Menzies (SC) def. Eduardo Segura (GT) 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (8)
6. Ben Barnette (SC) def. Anish Sharma (GT) 6-2, 6-1