Gamecocks Fall to No. 7 Tar Heels 4-1
May 11, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 28 South Carolina dropped a tough 4-1 decision at No. 7 North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (16-14) and Tar Heels fought tooth and nail throughout the contest, giving their higher-seeded opponent everything it could handle. Doubles was decided by the narrowest of margins, and three singles matches went into third sets. Junior Kyle Koch provided the lone point of the day with his 12th-straight singles victory, but his teammates battled just as hard down the stretch.
“Overall today was an amazing match from both sides,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “From the start, North Carolina was ready for what we brought, and I think we brought our best all year. It was tooth and nail all the way through. I thought we were going to end up in breakers all the way across (doubles), and it just didn’t fall our way unfortunately, which kind of set the tone. We came out initially in singles, down on the top three courts but making moves below. Again, it was going back and forth the entire day. We didn’t give up. North Carolina stayed in the fight when we challenged them. They’re a good team, and more importantly, they’re a tough team. Where we thought we could get them today was taking them to the end, have them feel the pressure of being a higher seed, but, they withstood everything we gave them. So, hats off to them.”
North Carolina won a doubles point that could not have been closer as five points decided two tiebreaks to put the match’s first point in the Tar Heels’ column. The Nos. 1 and 2 matches were on serve throughout, but the Gamecocks’ No. 3 pair of Thiago Pinheiro and Andrew Schafer shook of a break that put them down 3-2 by rattling off the next five games to take a 7-3 lead. But, serving for the match, the Gamecock tandem faltered, and the momentum shifted back to the Tar Heel team of Ronnie Schneider and Jack Murray, who won four straight games to send the match to a tiebreak. The No. 2 match between Andrew Adams / Koch and Nelson Vick / Oystein Steiro had just wrapped up its tiebreak with the Tar Heels winning 8-7 (4). Meanwhile, the two top-30 teams at the top of the lineup were slugging it out with neither able to crack the other as they marched toward a tiebreak as well. But, before that could happen, the Pinheiro and Schafer would have to hold off Schneider and Murray. After falling behind 2-5, the Gamecocks won four of the next five points behind great serving from Schafer and a great return from Pinheiro. The tiebreak was tied at 6-6 and again at 7-7, but the Tar Heels closed it out 8-7 (7) to claim the doubles point.
In singles action, the Chip Cox and Koch established early leads in the Nos. 4 and 5 matches, respectively, with Cox winning his first set over Oystein Steiro in an efficient 6-1 decision. Cox’s doubles partner, Tsvetan Mihov, was on the other end of the same score in his No. 2 match with No. 33 Ronnie Schneider, but the senior would soon turn the tables. After No. 54 Adams dropped his first set to No. 15 Brayden Schnur 6-4 at the top of the order, Koch used a break to go up 5-3 on Murray, then finished off the Tar Heels’ freshman 6-3 to give the Gamecocks a pair of first sets in hand.
North Carolina did not let the momentum shift, though, with No. 78 Brett Clark breaking Pinheiro to win their first set 6-4, and Nelson Vick shedding a determined Schafer 6-1 in the No. 6 contest.
Cox and Koch both went up early breaks in their second sets with Koch in complete control of Murray on Court 5. The Gamecock junior put down a series of overheads to hold at 4-2 then used his forehand to overpower his opponent to go up another break at 5-2. On match point, Koch bombed a serve and followed it to the net to put away the winner and tie the team score at 1-1.
Cox was similarly rolling against Steiro, up a break at 4-2, and Mihov was making his move in the second, grabbing a 5-2 lead over Schneider to give the Gamecocks life. Cox served for the match up 5-4, but Steiro kept battling, setting up two break points that Cox dismissed before grabbing a match point of his own. Steiro again refused to yield, saving match point and going on to win the game and level the set at 5-5.
At the top of the order, Adams fell to Schnur 6-4, 6-4 to put North Carolina back on top at 2-1, and Clark was up a break on Pinheiro, 3-1, in the No. 3 match’s second set. With Mihov claiming the second set from Schneider 6-3, all eyes went to Court 4, looking for Cox to hold on. The senior answered Steiro’s break with one of his own, set up by his opponent’s double fault, but again the North Carolina junior responded, sending the set to a tiebreak.
Before the No. 4 tiebreak started, though, Schafer had turned a 2-4 deficit to Vick into a 6-4 second-set victory when North Carolina’s senior sent a forehand long on break point. The momentum shift did not last long with Clark closing out his 6-4, 6-3 win over Pinheiro to make it a 3-1 Tar Heel lead. The Gamecocks would need every remaining match and were clearly ready to fight for it.
Mihov had fallen behind Schneider 3-0 early in their third set, though, and the battle was on in the tiebreak on Court 4, which stretched an extra point before Steiro escaped with a 7-6 (5) victory to send that match into a third set as well.
Schafer was carrying his momentum in the third set, breaking Vick to go up 3-1, but Mihov could not make up the ground to Schneider, who watched South Carolina’s senior send a cross court shot wide to seal his 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory and the team win for the Tar Heels.
#7 North Carolina 4, #28 South Carolina 1
Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3)
1. (30) Chip Cox/ Tsvetan Mihov (SC) tied (25) Brayden Schnur/Brett Clark (NC) 6-6 suspended
2. Nelson Vick/Oystein Steiro (NC) def. Andrew Adams/Kyle Koch (SC) 8-7 (4)
3. Ronnie Schneider/Jack Murray (NC) def. Thiago Pinheiro/Andrew Schafer (SC) 8-7 (7)
Singles (Order of Finish: 5, 1, 3, 2)
1. (15) Brayden Schnur (NC) def. (54) Andrew Adams (SC) 6-4, 6-4
2. (33) Ronnie Schneider (NC) def. Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
3. (78) Brett Clark (NC) def. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 6-4, 6-3
4. Oystein Steiro (NC) led Chip Cox (SC) 1-6, 7-6 (5), 2-0 suspended
5. Kyle Koch (SC) def. Jack Murray (NC) 6-3, 6-2
6. Andrew Schafer (SC) led Nelson Vick (NC) 1-6, 6-4, 3-1 suspended