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April 13, 2014

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Coach Epley

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 35 South Carolina women’s tennis team fell short against No. 5 Vanderbilt on Sunday, dropping a 4-2 decision at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks finished the regular season with a 15-9 record overall and went 6-7 in the SEC. Vandy finished up 18-5 with an 11-2 mark for league play.

South Carolina came out much different than it did two days ago when it lost the doubles point to Kentucky. On court two, No. 76 Meghan Blevins and Katerina Popova bounced back from an 8-0 loss to UK by upsetting No. 40 Sydney Campbell and Ashley Antal by an 8-3 score. With the win, Blevins and Popova improved to 4-1 on the spring at the No. 2 spot in SEC play.

The Gamecocks’ Caroline Dailey and Ximena Siles Luna led No. 58 Frances Altick and Marie Casares 6-3 on court three when Popova and Blevins finished their match-up. In a back-and-forth affair at one, No. 30 Elixane Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova of Carolina led No. 32 Courtney Colton and Lauren Mira 4-3 with the match on serve.

Altick and Casares held serve to make it 6-4 and Dailey did likewise to keep the Gamecocks ahead 7-4 at three. The Commodores held again to cut the deficit to 7-5, but Siles Luna took care of her serve, winning the match at 40-30 with a picture perfect lob that hit the back wall on the bounce out of Vandy’s reach.

At one, the match was still on serve with South Carolina ahead 6-5 when play was suspended.

The Commodores faced an even bigger uphill climb in singles, as they pulled their top two singles players, No. 67 Campbell and No. 70 Georgina Sellyn, because of injuries. The remaining four players in the lineup had to move up two places from their normal positions and Mira came in to fill the No. 5 spot and Maggie Leavell the No. 6 court.

The singles matches began with three favoring the Gamecocks and three headed Vandy’s direction. At one, No. 98 Lechemia crushed No. 62 Altick 6-1 for the first set, and Siles Luna took care of Leavell 6-1 in the first set at No. 6 singles as well. At three, No. 85 Colton defeated Blevins 6-1 for the first set.

As those first sets finished, Folland was making a furious comeback on Antal on court four. Trailing 5-1, she battled back to take five games in a row for a 6-5 advantage, but Antal managed to take the 12th game to force a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Folland prevailed by a 7-4 count to take the first set.

Soon after winning the tiebreaker, Siles Luna finished off Leavell for a 6-1, 6-1 triumph at No. 6 singles to put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0. Next, Dailey came back from a 4-1 hole versus Mira at five to win the first set by a 7-5 score. As Dailey pulled ahead 2-1 in the second set, though, Blevins suffered a 6-1, 6-4 setback to No. 85 Colton on court three to give Vanderbilt its first point.

As Vandy made the score 2-1, Lechemia found herself in a third set at one, Popova trailed 5-2 in the second at two and Folland was 3-all at four. Popova could not hang on in her contest with Casares, falling 6-4, 6-2 to tie the score up at two apiece.

Folland was hoping for a break of serve up a set and 5-4 in the second versus Antal at four, but she held to make it 5-all. Both players then lost their serves to set up another tiebreaker. In the breaker, Antal raced ahead 4-0 and despite Folland’s effort to cut the margin to 4-3, Antal pulled away for a 7-3 victory to force a third set.

Mira also forced a third set on court five after losing the first to Dailey 7-5 by taking the second 6-3. When Dailey and Folland entered the third, Lechemia was already well into her third set with Altick, coming back from 3-0 down to make it 3-2 following a break to get back on serve. Lechemia held for 3-all and Altick did the same to regain a 4-3 lead. Both players held serve for the next two games, but Lechemia was broken at 5-4 down after she hit a backhand volley in the net on an approach to give Altick a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 win to lift Vandy to a 3-2 lead.

Folland had pulled ahead of Antal 4-1 in the third on court four after Lechemia’s loss, while Dailey had fallen behind Mira 4-2 in the third at five. Mira won a tough service game to make it 5-2 and then broke Dailey in the ensuing game to pick up the 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win and complete the Commodores’ come-from-behind victory.

The remaining match at No. 4 singles was suspended once Mira grabbed the win. Folland and Antal were about to start the eighth game of the third set with Folland leading 5-2.

Other league matches on the day determined the Gamecocks are headed to next week’s SEC Tournament in Columbia, Mo., holding the No. 8 seed, pitting them against No. 9 seed Ole Miss in the second round Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks defeated the Rebels 4-2 earlier this month in Oxford, Miss.

1. #62 Frances Altick, VU, def. #98 Elixane Lechemia, USC, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4
2. #99 Marie Casares, VU, def. #90 Katerina Popova, USC, 6-4, 6-2
3. #85 Courtney Colton, VU, def. Meghan Blevins, USC, 6-1, 6-4
4. Brigit Folland, USC, vs. Ashleigh Antal, VU, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 5-2 susp.
5. Lauren Mira, VU, def. Caroline Dailey, USC, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
6. Ximena Siles Luna, USC, def. Maggie Leavell, VU, 6-1, 6-1

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

1. #30 Lechemia/Dominika Kanakova, USC, vs. #32 Colton/Mira, VU, 6-5 susp.
2. #76 Blevins/Popova, USC, def. #40 Antal/Sydney Campbell, VU, 8-3
3. Siles Luna/Dailey, USC, def. #58 Altick/Casares, VU, 8-5

Order of Finish: 2, 3