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Feb. 2, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 17 South Carolina battled for every point as it narrowly beat Middle Tennessee State 4-3 Sunday morning at the USC Field House. The Gamecocks dropped a fiercely contested doubles point to start the match, but commandeered four singles points to clinch the victory, including the deciding match from freshman Andrew Schafer in the No. 6 spot.

“Middle Tennessee State came out and played well,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Schafer is a grinder, though. That match came a little close at the end, but he stepped up – that’s what he does. We needed to grind through a match just like this to turn the season.”

Doubles was going the Gamecocks’ way early, but the Blue Raiders fought down to the wire forcing tiebreaks in two out of the three matches, taking the first point of the contest. No. 24 Kyle Koch and Chip Cox faltered to the nation’s No. 22 Victor Cornea and David Fox, 6-5 (4). After a defeat in the number one position, Andrew Adams and Schafer finished off their 6-4 win in the No 3 match, and the Gamecocks’ No. 2 pairing of Tsvetan Mihov and Thiago Pinheiro forced a tiebreak. Despite rallying, the duo fell 6-5 (5) to give Middle Tennessee State the doubles point.

In singles, Adams came out firing on all cylinders to a speedy 6-2 win in the first set over Yannick Born in the No. 4 match. The junior remained steady through the second set, winning 6-3 to get the Gamecocks on the board and even the score, 1-1.

In the No. 1 position, No. 41 Mihov struggled to find his groove in the first set. He fought back in the second set against No. 98 David Fox, forcing a grueling tiebreak, in which Fox prevailed 6-5 (4) to give the Blue Raiders a 2-1 advantage.

Pinheiro was on Victor Cornea’s heels from the beginning of the No. 3 match, battling for the tying point. The Gamecock junior’s dominating play allowed him to break Cornea in consecutive games to control the set, 6-4. Coming out in his second set, Pinheiro kept the momentum flowing as he broke Cornea twice, giving South Carolina its second point of the match with his 6-4 decision.

Just after Pinheiro’s win leveled the team score at 2-2, Koch refused to go down without a fight. Despite losing his first set 2-6, Koch bounced back quickly as he defeated Ettore Zito in the second set, 6-3. After a hard fought third set, the junior fell 6-4, giving the advantage back to Middle Tennessee, 3-2.

With the momentum swaying in favor of the Blue Raiders, Cox and Schafer both came out on fire, determined to give South Carolina the win. After dominating early in his first set, Cox let Victor Hoang back in. The Gamecocks’ senior eventually clinched the first set in the tiebreak 6-5 (7). Feeding off the energy of his teammate, Schafer took an early 3-0 start over Sam Matheson. Cox got up early in his second set and did not let up this time, winning 6-2 to knot the match at 3-3.

The win would come down to the No. 6 match, and all eyes were on Schafer, who had won the first set 6-4, to clinch a Gamecock win. The freshman was up early but saw Matheson battle back. Schafer stayed focused, though, grinding out points to his eventual 6-4 victory that delivered the final point needed for the Gamecock win.

South Carolina returns to the USC Field House tonight at 4 p.m. as they take on in-state opponent Wofford. The Gamecocks hit the road again, taking on No. 20 Wake Forest on Friday Feb., 7, at 5 p.m.

#17 South Carolina 4 #56 Middle Tennessee State 3

Doubles (Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2*)
1. (22) Victor Cornea/David Fox (MTS) def. (24) Kyle Koch/Chip Cox 6-5 (4)
2. Aaron Jummonville/Yannick Born (MTS) def. Thiago Pinheiro/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 6-5 (5)
3. Andrew Adams/Andrew Schafer (SC) def. Victor Hoang/Sam Matheson (MTS) 6-4

Singles (Order of Finish: 4, 1, 3, 2, 5, 6*)
1. (98) David Fox (MTS) def. (41) Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 6-3, 6-5 (4)
2. Ettore Zito (MTS) def. (103) Kyle Koch (SC) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
3. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Victor Cornea (MTS) 6-4, 6-4
4. Andrew Adams (SC) def. Yannick Born (MTS) 6-2, 6-3
5. Chip Cox (SC) def. Victor Hoang (MTS) 6-5 (7), 6-2
6. (91) Andrew Schafer (SC) def. Sam Matheson (MTS) 6-4, 6-4