Comeback Falls Short in 4-2 Loss at No. 14 Kentucky
April 11, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 35 South Carolina gave No. 14 Kentucky all it could handle, but the Gamecocks came up just short in the final moments of a 4-2 loss Friday evening at Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex. South Carolina narrowly dropped the doubles point and lost four first sets in singles, but wins from Thiago Pinheiro and Andrew Schafer set the stage for the comeback that fell just a few games shy of completion.
“We came up a little short, but there are a lot of good things that we are going to take from this match,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Hats off to Kentucky. Their coaches got them ready to play tough after the great win they had [over No. 1 Ohio State] the other day.”
The Gamecocks dropped the doubles point despite a dominant victory for Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov against the No. 20 duo in the nation. South Carolina’s senior tandem jumped out to an early lead on Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai and never looked back for the 8-1 win, the pair’s first over a ranked team this season. The Wildcats closed out the win in the No. 3 match to decide the point in their favor.
Needing to win four of the six singles matches, South Carolina’s only early lead was with Schafer in the No. 6 match. The freshman opened the match with a service break and quickly went up 5-1. The Wildcats were up a break in the Nos. 1 and 2 matches, but the other three were on serve late. Andrew Adams and Mihov lost their first sets 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, just ahead of Schafer wrapping up his 6-2 first set over Nils Ellefsen. Cox and Kyle Koch were both on serve at 3-3 in the Nos. 4 and 5 matches, but the Wildcats edged ahead late to win both sets 6-4. In the No. 3 match, Pinheiro and No. 112 Beck Pennington were on serve late until Pinheiro broke a 5-5 tie with a break that he then consolidated to win the first set 7-5.
Adams, ranking 75th in the nation this week, fell behind No. 13 Jomby early in the second set and lost his match 6-2, 6-2 to make it a 2-0 Kentucky lead. Schafer cut the Gamecocks’ deficit in half with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ellefsen. Koch had pulled ahead of Grant Roberts in the second set, and No. 78 Mihov was going toe-to-toe with No. 95 Alejandro Gomez in the No. 2 match.
Pinheiro fell behind Pennington 0-2 in the No. 3 match’s second set, but the Gamecocks’ passionate junior mounted a rally, winning four of the next five games to take a 4-3 lead, just as Mihov dropped a tiebreak to Gomez, 7-6 (5), to put the Wildcats up 3-1. Koch had scored another break over Roberts and forced a third set with his 6-3 win in the second while Cox was trading breaks with Jerry Lopez early in second set of the No. 4 contest.
South Carolina drew within point a 2-3 as Pinheiro finished out his 7-5, 6-4 win over Pennington to post his second win over a ranked opponent this season. Cox and Koch were the last matches on court, with Cox poised to extend his match to a third set. The Gamecock senior had rallied back each time he dropped a service game in the second set and was tied with Lopez at 5-5. Cox’s serve faltered again, though, and Lopez served out the set for a 6-4, 7-5 win that clinched the team victory for Kentucky.
The Gamecocks close out the regular season by heading to No. 26 Vanderbilt for a 1 p.m. contest on Sun., Apr. 13. The SEC Tournament, also in Nashville, begins on Wed., Apr. 16.
#14 Kentucky 4, #35 South Carolina 2
Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3*)
1. Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. (20) Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) 8-1
2. Alejandro Gomez/Beck Pennington (UK) def. Andrew Adams/Kyle Koch (SC) 8-5
3. Ryuji Hirooka/Nils Ellefsen (UK) def. Thiago Pinheiro/Sam Swank (SC) 8-5
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 6, 2, 3, 4*)
1. (13) Tom Jomby (UK) def. (75) Andrew Adams (SC) 6-2, 6-2
2. (95) Alejandro Gomez (UK) def. (78) Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 6-3, 7-6 (5)
3. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. (112) Beck Pennington (UK) 7-5, 6-4
4. Jerry Lopez (UK) def. Chip Cox (SC) 6-4, 7-5
5. Kyle Koch (SC) vs. Grant Roberts (UK) 4-6, 6-3, 3-4 suspended
6. Andrew Schafer (SC) def. Nils Ellefsen (UK) 6-2, 6-4