Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+

Feb. 28, 2014


COLUMBIA, S.C. – The 42nd-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team opened SEC play Friday night with a 6-1 triumph over Missouri at the USC Field House in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks improved to 10-2 on the season, while the Tigers fell to 4-7.

The doubles point was never in question, as South Carolina earned big leads on all three courts. About an hour into the matches, the Gamecocks held 7-3 leads on all three courts and it became a matter of which two duos would record wins to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. Elixane Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova ended up finishing first with an 8-3 victory against Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Rachel Stuhlmann on court one. Less than two minutes later, Meghan Blevins and Caroline Dailey beat Tracy Dong and Cassidy Spearman at No. 3 doubles by an 8-3 score as well.

At No. 2 doubles, South Carolina’s Brigit Folland and Katerina Popova had match point up 7-3 against Kelli Hine and Madison Rhyner, but once the No. 3 doubles match finished, play was suspended. Folland and Popova are the Gamecocks’ undefeated tandem this spring with a 7-0 record at two.

South Carolina managed to take the first sets on courts one, two and four to begin singles play. At No. 4 singles, Blevins raced out to a 5-0 advantage on Rhyner, but Rhyner recovered to win three straight games. Blevins held steady and closed out the set for a 6-3 win. Soon afterward, Lechemia finished her first set with Gaytan-Leach by the same score on court one. Then it was No. 90 Popova’s turn with a 6-4 decision over Kelli Hine at No. 3 singles.

Folland, ranked T-85th, fell behind to Stuhlmann 4-0 at the No. 3 position, but she countered with two games to cut the deficit in half. Stuhlmann then took a 5-2 advantage at the next changeover and surrendered one more game before taking the set by a 6-3 count.

Lechemia wasted no time grabbing a 3-0 advantage from Gaytan-Leach in the second, while Popova led Hine 3-0 after the first three games of the second set as well. Blevins then took command of the second against Rhyner with a 4-1 lead. The Charleston, S.C., native held to make it 5-1 and then broke Rhyner to give the Gamecocks their second point of the evening. Blevins improved to 13-8 overall with the win and 9-1 in duals while picking up her eighth straight victory.

Popova and Lechemia appeared to be the two who would clinch the match for South Carolina with Popova leading 5-1 at two and Lechemia on top 5-3 at one. Lechemia had her serve broken to still lead 5-4 at the changeover and Hine held for 5-2 to give Popova a chance to serve out the match. The Tigers would not give away the matches without a fight, though, as Gaytan-Leach held for 5-all and Hine broke Popova to trail 5-3.

Before either of those matches could finish, though, Stuhlmann held off Folland at No. 3 singles, winning 6-3, 6-3 to make the score 2-1 for South Carolina. Folland trailed 4-1 in the second before trimming the Mizzou lead to 4-3 but could not hold on to the final two games.

Popova responded quickly by finishing off Hine at the second spot with a break of serve to win 6-4, 6-3. Popova ran her impressive spring record to 10-1 and improved to 15-5 overall for her senior season. The native of Moscow also posted her ninth win in a row in the process.

Lechemia saw her leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the second set evaporate, as Gaytan-Leach continued to apply pressure. She won four straight games after trailing 5-3 to force a third set. Gaytan-Leach made it six games in a row when she took a 2-0 advantage to begin the third, but Lechemia recovered to get the match back on serve at 2-all. Gaytan-Leach earned another break of serve to go up 4-2 and nearly got a second, but Lechemia held to keep it at a 4-3 disadvantage. Lechemia then took advantage of some errant shots by Gaytan-Leach in the next game to get the set back on serve. Lechemia fell behind 15-40 on her serve in the ensuing game but used some big first serves and textbook net play to win four straight rallies to regain the upper hand, 5-4. Both players held serve the next two games and with a 6-5 lead, Lechemia picked up double match point on Gaytan-Leach’s serve at 15-40 and earned the victory on her second match point to give Carolina the win.

With the team victory in hand, Ximena Siles Luna held a 6-2, 4-2 lead on Alex Clark at No. 5 singles and Dailey led Spearman 6-2, 4-0 on court six. Siles Luna cruised to win two more games and snatch a 6-2, 6-2 final from Clark to make it 5-1 for the Gamecocks, and Dailey gave away one game before winning 6-2, 6-1. Dailey tied Popova and Lechemia for the team lead in singles victories this season in improving to 15-6.

South Carolina returns to the courts Sunday when it hosts No. 9 Texas A&M at noon at Carolina Tennis Center. The Aggies are coming off a 4-0 loss at No. 5 Florida tonight and are 6-3 on the season.

1. Elixane Lechemia, USC, def. Cierra Gaytan-Leach, MU, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5
2. #90 Katerina Popova, USC, def. Kelli Hine, MU, 6-4, 6-3
3. Rachel Stuhlmann, MU, def. #T-85 Brigit Folland, USC, 6-3, 6-3
4. Meghan Blevins, USC, def. Madison Rhyner, MU, 6-3, 6-1
5. Ximena Siles Luna, USC, def. Alex Clark, MU, 6-2, 6-2
6. Caroline Dailey, USC, def. Cassidy Spearman, MU, 6-2, 6-1

Order of Finish: 4, 3, 2, 1, 5, 6

1. Dominika Kanakova/Lechemia, USC, def. Gaytan-Leach/Stuhlmann, MU, 8-3
2. Folland/Popova, USC, vs. Hine/Rhyner, MU, 7-3 susp.
3. Blevins/Dailey, USC, def. Tracy Dong/Spearman, MU, 8-3

Order of Finish: 1, 3