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Feb. 21, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 48 South Carolina men’s tennis makes just its second road trip of the season this weekend, heading north to the state of Virginia for a pair of matches. The Gamecocks (8-3) will take on William & Mary at 6 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 22, then travel to Richmond to face No. 34 VCU on Sun., Feb. 24, at 1 p.m.

“Our guys are excited to get on the road,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “We’ve had a great home stretch, and played well at home for the most part. I think the guys are looking forward to getting out and getting some road wins this weekend.”

The Gamecocks are coming off their second-straight 4-3 victory over a top-40 opponent. This one came on Wednesday over No. 37 UNC Wilmington. Three of South Carolina’s eight wins have come over ranked opponents, all at home. Goffi’s top doubles duo of juniors Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov are making noise against some of the nation’s elite tandems, posting an 8-6 comeback win over UNCW’s duo ranked eighth in the nation after leading a few other matches against ranked opponents this season that were suspended once the doubles point was decided. Mihov has been a force at the top of the singles lineup as well, boasting a 7-3 record and a No. 94 national ranking. Two of his three losses have come to opponents ranked among the nation’s top 35, as has one of his victories. Senior Harry Menzies and Thiago Pinheiro have been equally consistent in the second half of the order, posting 6-1 and 7-2 records, respectively.

“Everyone’s game is molding out the way we need it to right now,” Goffi said. “Everyone is starting to believe in their games, which is necessary. But, more importantly, they’re understanding how to run a dual match. We came out and survived a massive push from Wilmington in doubles, which we haven’t done before, and came out on top with all three courts leading. The transition from doubles to singles [on Wednesday] was phenomenal. So now we’re on to the next step where we need to accomplish the finishing side of things. That’s the most important side. Not to mention that our guys didn’t give up when things got tough. Gutting out these wins more and more is just going to keep paying dividends down the road.

William and Mary is 4-3 on the season after winning its last two outings. The doubles team of John Banks and Scott Huang earned Colonial Athletic Association Doubles Team of the Week after winning three matches last week to lift their record to 4-0 playing in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Junior Ben Guthrie made his national ranking debut last week, coming in at No. 103 behind a 9-6 record that includes wins over three top-65 opponents.

“William and Mary is a good match for us to back up this tough win [over UNC Wilmington],” Goffi said. “If we go in there and take care of what we’re supposed to in our objectives, we can be successful there. We’re looking forward to it because it will be in front of a large crowd in a night match. I think our guys are excited to play in front of a nice crowd.”

No. 34 VCU brings not only a solid ranking but a lofty history to Sunday’s match. The Rams were NCAA Tournament finalists in 2000 and have been ranked in the top 25 for 17 seasons. VCU is 8-3 on the season and will take on Penn State Saturday prior to the Gamecocks’ arrival. Two VCU doubles teams are nationally ranked, and the Rams have two entries in the singles rankings as well. Max Wennakoski’s 20-6 overall record and 8-1 mark in dual matches has him ranked 14th in the nation in singles, and he has a pair of wins over top-35 foes this spring. Alexis Heugas mans the No. 1 singles position for the Rams and is ranked 93rd in the country with a 16-10 overall record, including a 6-3 mark in dual matches. He teams with Dylan McCloskey to form the No. 37 doubles team in the nation, posting a 3-2 record in the top spot in the order. Jamie Vazquez Catoira and Alejandro Argente are ranked 38th in the nation with a 11-3 overall record and an unblemished 7-0 slate in dual match action.

“VCU is an accomplished and talented team that is well coached,” Goffi said. “They have a great tennis history with the same coaching staff. They’ve been to the NCAA finals before, and they have a solid team this year, so I think they’re looking to do some big things this year as well. That’s going to be our toughest test to this point.”

Following this weekend’s road trip, the Gamecocks serve up their SEC opener against league newcomer No. 14 Texas A&M on Fri., March 1, at 5 p.m. at Carolina Tennis Center. South Carolina then hosts rival No. 51 Clemson on Sun., March 3, at 1 p.m. Parking in the Athletics Village Garage and admission to the matches are free.