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March 29, 2013

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 25 South Carolina was aggressive and efficient in singles action to score a 5-1 win over No. 53 Arkansas Friday night at Carolina Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (14-7, 4-3 SEC) dropped the doubles point but quickly turned the page to get in front in singles action, coming within a point of sweeping the six matches. Junior Chip Cox finished off the victory with a win in the No. 4 match after Thiago Pinheiro got things started with a quick win in the No. 3 contest. South Carolina’s four SEC victories are the most for the program since the 2006 squad notched five.

“After a disappointing doubles point, each guy took it upon himself to get off to a good start in singles,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “They established their games right away, which was the only reason we got a foothold in the match. It was a dangerous scenario for us today, playing with a bullseye on our back for the first time. Playing as the favorite in an SEC match is a different kind of pressure for us to deal with. But every great player, every great team has to go through that at some point. It was a great lesson for us to learn today.”

The Gamecocks struggled at the top and bottom of the doubles lineup, but the middle remained rock solid. Ranked 55th in the nation this week, Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies stretched their win streak to five matches with an 8-5 win over Hall Fess and Santiago Munoz. The South Carolina duo fell behind early, but a great lob from Koch got the match back on serve at 3-3. Shortly after Arkansas won the match at the top of the order with No. 35 Mike Nott and Manfred Jaske topping No. 21 Cox and Tsvetan Mihov 8-2, Pinheiro and Ben Barnette were looking to make a comeback in the No. 3 match against Victory Hoang and Austin Robles. The South Carolina sophomores had already erased one of their two breaks and were on the verge of erasing the second, but the Arkansas tandem came up with a solid second serve to stave off break point, eventually holding for a 6-4 lead. With Koch and Menzies closing out their win, the doubles point came down to the No. 3 matchup. South Carolina looked to keep up the pressure, but the Razorback duo had bounced back from it scare and held on for the 8-6 win to clinch the early lead.

South Carolina came out on fire in singles play, led by Pinheiro and Menzies who each were up multiple breaks in the first five games of their Nos. 3 and 6 matches, respectively. Koch needed just six games to get up by two breaks in the No. 5 match, and Adams broke through in the No. 2 match to take a 4-2 lead as well. By that time, though Pinheiro and Menzies had already closed out their 6-1 first sets to set the tone for the match.

A break forced Koch to play a few extra games, but he eventually punctuated his 6-3 first-set win over Jovan Parlic with an ace. Mihov and Adams were on serve in the Nos. 1 and 2 matches, respectively, although their matches were moving in the opposite direction. Where Mihov and Jaske struggled to hold serve early in the set, Adams, ranked 90th in the nation, and Nott were trading breaks late in their set. Trailing 5-4, Jaske was up early in his service game, but Mihov was resolute, battling back to earn the break and the set 6-4. On the next court, Nott was serving to stay in the set, only to see Adams jump out to an early lead behind a great return game that gave him the 6-4 win as well.

Cox got off to an inauspicious start in the No. 4 match, trailing Munoz by two service breaks through five games. The never-say-die junior continued to work his way back into the match, though, getting back on serve at 5-5. Cox sustained a long service game to hold on 6-5 before taking advantage of some errors from Munoz, including one on match point to score the 7-5 win and complete the sweep of first sets for the Gamecocks.

Mihov and Adams carried the momentum of their final-game service breaks into the second set, both establishing 4-0 leads. Pinheiro tied the match at 1-1 by dispatching Hoang in the No. 3 match with a 6-3 second set, which he sealed with an ace. After trading service breaks with Christian Lee early in the second set of the No. 6 match, Menzies nosed in front with a break to go up 5-4. Service for the match, the Gamecock senior had to battle through a long game, but he came back from an early deficit to earn his second-straight win with a half-volley up the line to make it a 2-1 South Carolina lead. With 4-1 leads in the Nos. 1 and 2 matches, Koch and Parlic were heading for a tiebreak on Court 5, trading leads through the first five points. From there, action on all four remaining courts came quickly.

Mihov broke Jaske’s serve yet again then closed out his 6-1 second set to bring the Gamecocks within a point of the team victory. Adams had established the same 5-1 lead and was serving for the match on Court 2, while Cox edged ahead of Munoz with a break for a 5-3 lead on Court 4 just as Koch took control of his tiebreak, winning three straight points, including a backhand passing shot up the line to set up match point at 6-2. Cox won the sprint to the finish line with a 6-3 second-set win over Munoz just after Koch served what turned out to be match point in his 7-6 (3) final set. Adams had match point as well, but play was suspended before he got the serve up.

South Carolina will look for its fourth-straight victory on Sun., March 31, taking on No. 33 LSU at 1 p.m. at Carolina Tennis Center. Admission to the match and parking at the Athletics Village Garage are free.

#25 South Carolina 5, #53 Arkansas 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3*)
1. (35) Mike Nott/Manfred Jaske def. (21) Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 8-2
2. (55) Kyle Koch / Harry Menzies (SC) def. Hall Fess/Santiago Munoz (ARK) 8-5
3. Victor Hoang/Austin Robles (ARK) def Ben Barnette/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 8-6

Singles (Order of Finish: 3, 6, 1, 4*, 5)
1. Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. Manfred Jaske (ARK) 6-4, 6-1
2. (90)Andrew Adams (SC) led Mike Nott (ARK) 6-4, 5-1 suspended
3. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Victor Hoang (ARK) 6-1, 6-3
4. Chip Cox (SC) def. Santiago Munoz (ARK) 7-5, 6-3
5. Kyle Koch (SC) def. Jovan Parlic (ARK) 6-3, 7-6 (3)
6. Harry Menzies (SC) def. Christian Lee (ARK) 6-1, 6-4