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March 2, 2014

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 42nd-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team dropped a 5-2 decision against No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday afternoon at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. With the loss, the Gamecocks dropped to 10-3 and 1-1 in the SEC, while the Aggies improved to 7-3 and 1-1 in league play.

The Gamecocks lost a tight doubles point, falling on courts one and two. The No. 2 doubles match between South Carolina’s Brigit Folland and Katerina Popova, and Texas A&M’s Ines Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska finished just ahead of court one. Folland and Popova got off to a rough start, falling behind 5-0, but the Gamecocks rallied to win four straight games to cut the deficit to just one. Deheza and Gavrilovska, though, charged right back to claim the final three games for an 8-4 victory. It marked Folland and Popova’s first loss this season, dropping them to 7-1.

At No. 1 doubles, Carolina’s Elixane Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova jumped ahead of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu 4-1, but A&M recovered to win four games in a row for a 5-4 lead. The match then moved to a 6-all tie with Lechemia serving, but she was broken at love to give Stancu a chance to serve out the match, which she did to give Texas A&M a 1-0 advantage heading to singles play.

The No. 3 match was suspended once the doubles point was clinched. Meghan Blevins and Caroline Dailey from South Carolina led Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat 7-6 with the match on serve. Blevins had a chance to serve out the contest ahead 7-5, but the Aggies managed a break of serve and then won the first rally in the ensuing game before play stopped.

Despite losing the doubles, South Carolina came out confident in singles. The Gamecocks opened singles dominating the left side of Carolina Tennis Center on courts two, four and six. Dailey blanked Bhosale 6-0 to finish first among the trio, and Popova followed soon afterward by serving out the first set against Deheza with a 6-1 win at two. Finally, Blevins served out her first set at No. 4 singles against Mamalat with a 6-1 triumph.

The Aggies, however, were in control of courts one and three on the right side. Gavrilovska defeated Folland 6-0 in the first set at three and Stancu won a 6-2 decision from Lechemia at No. 1 singles. The No. 5 singles match between Ximena Siles Luna of South Carolina and Hristov was a back and forth affair that was still at 3-2 for Siles Luna when all the other first sets had finished.

Blevins wasted no time with her second set, blasting Mamalat 6-0 to even the score at 1-1. At six, Dailey pushed ahead 5-1 against Bhosale before seeing her serve broken to make it 5-2. Bhosale fought off double match point trailing 15-40 in the next game, but Dailey still managed to finish her off with a 6-0, 6-2 victory to pull the Gamecocks ahead 2-1. Dailey now leads the Gamecocks in singles victories this season with a 16-6 record.

Just before Dailey closed it out, Hristov grabbed the first set from Siles Luna at 5 by a 6-4 score. Popova found herself losing 5-2 in the second to Deheza at two and Lechemia was ahead of Stancu 3-1 in the second. Folland was also creeping back into her contest with Gavrilovska, recovering from a 4-1 hole in the second to make it 4-3. Gavrilovska then made the score 5-3, but Folland rattled off four games in a row to win 7-5 and force a third set.

The Aggies tied the score back up at 2-all thanks to Deheza’s win over Popova at two singles. After losing the first set 6-1, Deheza came back to win 6-2, 6-0 in the second and third to snap Popova’s nine-match winning streak. Popova now stands 10-2 on the spring and 15-6 overall. Texas A&M then pulled ahead with Hristov’s 6-4, 6-2 victory against Siles Luna at No. 5 singles.

As Hristov recorded the win at five, Lechemia found herself down 2-1 in a second set tiebreaker with Stancu at one and Folland had fallen behind Gavrilovska 3-0 in the third. Stancu went on to defeat Lechemia 7-5 in the breaker to lift the Aggies to victory, and Gavrilovska defeated Folland 6-0, 5-7, 6-0 at No. 3 singles to close out the match-up.

South Carolina returns home for its final match of a 10-match homestand to host No. 5 Florida on Saturday at 1 p.m.

1. #15 Cristina Stancu, TAMU, def. Elixane Lechemia, USC, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)
2. Ines Deheza, TAMU, def. #90 Katerina Popova, USC, 1-6, 6-2, 6-0
3. #57 Saska Gavrilovska, TAMU, def. #T-85 Brigit Folland, USC, 6-0, 5-7, 6-0
4. Meghan Blevins, USC, def. #118 Anna Mamalat, TAMU, 6-1, 6-0
5. Stefania Hristov, TAMU, def. Ximena Siles Luna, USC, 6-4, 6-2
6. Caroline Dailey, USC, def. Rutuja Bhosale, TAMU, 6-0, 6-2

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

1. Hristov/Stancu, TAMU, def. Dominika Kanakova/Lechemia, USC, 8-6
2. Deheza/Gavrilovska, TAMU, def. Folland/Popova, USC, 8-4
3. Blevins/Dailey, USC, vs. Bhosale/Mamalat, TAMU, 7-6 susp.

Order of Finish: 2, 1