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April 6, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 40 South Carolina rallied late but could not overcome its early deficit to No. 16 Mississippi State, falling 4-1 to the Bulldogs Sunday afternoon at Carolina Tennis Center. After narrowly falling in doubles, the Gamecocks (12-11, 4-6 SEC) forced a pair of third sets and Andrew Adams staved off three match points at the top of the singles lineup, but the Bulldogs (18-8, 7-4 SEC) delivered the winner to quell the comeback attempt.

“This was a tough match today,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Mississippi State is a good team, but they’re like us in that they’re battling and needed a win today. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of their recent struggles, and when you give a highly ranked team a little bit of confidence, they definitely push forward with it. We came within a few points of turning the match around by fighting to the end, like we always do, but it just came a little too late.”

South Carolina came within points of opening with the doubles point after seniors Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov won their match in the No. 2 spot, topping Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid 8-5 to leave the point up to the No. 3 contest. Junior Thiago Pinheiro and freshman Sam Swank were down a break early in the contest, but were pressuring Zach White and Rishab Agarwal late in the set. Trailing 6-7 with the Bulldogs serving, the Gamecocks forced a break point, but White and Agarwal saved it and won the next two points to clinch the 8-6 victory.

While freshman Andrew Schafer got the Gamecocks off to a quick start in singles, opening a 4-1 lead on Robin Haden in the No. 6 match, Andrew Adams and Piheiro trailed their opponents by the same score in the Nos. 1 and 4 matches, respectively. The other three matches were on serve midway through. Just as those three sets were being decided, the other three were in their final throes with the Bulldogs delivering at crunch time in two of them.

White and Mihov traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games of the No. 2 match to stay on serve. Mihov was serving to stay in the match, when White pounced on another break point to win the set 6-4. The Nos. 3 and 5 sets were similarly decided by late, clutch shots. Cox dropped his serve to Jordan Angus to go down 5-6, and the Bulldog sophomore closed out the set 7-5. In the No. 5 match, Kyle Koch pushed Schmid to a rare break point in their first set as the Bulldog junior was serving to stay in the match. Koch lured Schmid in late in a rally, and the volley found the net to give Koch a 7-5 win.

The momentum seemed to be shifting in the Gamecocks’ favor as Koch won the set as Adams went up a break on Lakat in the No. 1 match, establishing a 3-1 lead in the second set. In the No. 4 match, Pinheiro was dominating Agarwal early, storming to a 4-0 lead. White changed the energy, though, answering every Mihov service break in the second set with one of his own until he began a stretch of four straight games to win the set and the match 6-4, 6-2 to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.

Haden was on a similar march in the No. 6 match, shaking off his difficult first set to push past Schafer in the second 6-2 just after Angus closed out his 7-5, 6-3 win over Cox to bring Mississippi State within a point of the team victory. Lakat got back on serve with Adams, and Pinheiro had to fight off a late charge from Agarwal to win his second set 6-4 and force a third.

At the top of the lineup, Adams was serving to stay in the match, trailing 4-5, while Schmid was doing the same to hold off Koch’s victory in the No. 5 contest. Lakat got out to a 15-40 lead on Adams, but the Gamecock junior fought off both match points with a punishing baseline game. Koch did not suffer the same fate, though, as he closed out Schmid 7-5, 6-4 for his eighth-straight singles victory to get the Gamecocks on the board. Both Adams and Lakat earned another game point back on Court 1, but neither could convert. Facing his fourth match point of the game, Adams saw his forehead find the net for a 6-1, 6-4 loss that decided the team outcome.

The Gamecocks have two more regular-season matches before heading to Nashville for the SEC Tournament. South Carolina travels to No. 14 Kentucky for a 4 p.m. match on Fri., Apr. 11, before heading to No. 26 Vanderbilt on Sun., Apr. 13, for a 1 p.m. contest. The SEC Tournament begins on Wed., Apr. 16.

#16 Mississippi State 4, #40 South Carolina 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3)
1. (63) Malte Stropp/Jordan Angus (MS) def. Andrew Adams/Kyle Koch (SC) 8-4
2. Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. Florian Lakat/Tassilo Schmid (MS) 8-5
3. Zach White/Rishab Agarwal (MS) def. Thiago Pinheiro/Sam Swank (SC) 8-6

Singles (Order of Finish: 2, 3, 5, 1*)
1. (67) Florian Lakat (MS) def Andrew Adams (SC) 6-1, 6-4
2. Zach White (MS) def. (88) Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 6-4, 6-2
3. Jordan Angus (MS) def. Chip Cox (SC) 7-5, 6-3
4. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) vs. Rishab Agarwal (MS) 2-6, 6-4, 1-2 suspended
5. Kyle Koch (SC) def. Tassilo Schmid (MS) 7-5, 6-4
6. Andrew Schafer (SC) vs. Robin Haden (MS) 6-2, 2-6, 1-1 suspended