Jan. 29, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 21 South Carolina women’s tennis team faces some of the nation’s best this weekend taking on No. 10 Virginia at 5 p.m. on Friday in Charlottesville, Va., and No. 13 Clemson on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Clemson, S.C.
The Gamecocks, whose No. 21 team ranking is the best since 2011, are coming off an opening weekend of dual match play with a 4-0 record in Albuquerque, N.M. South Carolina opened the season Jan. 23 with wins against Grand Canyon (4-1) and Northern Arizona (4-0). Carolina continued with a 6-1 win over Kansas and a 5-2 triumph on the final day over the host Lobos of New Mexico.
Freshman Hadley Berg posted more wins than any other Gamecock with a 4-0 record in singles and a 3-0 mark for doubles. She clinched both matches for South Carolina against Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. Berg owns a 12-4 record in singles this season and is 15-5 in doubles.
Senior Meghan Blevins is the highest ranked Gamecock in singles with a No. 99 billing and her classmate Elixane Lechemia is ranked No. 120. Blevins and sophomore Brigit Folland lead the team in singles wins with 14 and the two combine to form the No. 33-ranked doubles team. They are 15-2 together overall. South Carolina has one other ranked doubles team with freshman Megen Cochran and sophomore Caroline Dailey at No. 58.
Virginia enters Friday’s match-up with a 2-1 record following a 6-1 loss to then-No. 9 Baylor on Jan. 24. UVa opened the season Jan. 18 with a 6-1 win over VCU and then escaped with a 4-3 victory against Utah on Jan. 22. The Cavaliers played short-handed in the matches with Utah and Baylor with half their lineup suffering from the flu, including the nation’s No. 1-ranked player Julia Elbaba. In addition to Elbaba, UVa has two other players ranked in the top 50 with Stephanie Nauta (16) and Danielle Collins (42). Skylar Morton and Cassie Mercer are ranked No. 11 in doubles and Elbaba and Nauta are No. 22.
South Carolina played Virginia last year in Charlottesville, marking the first match between the two institutions since 1985. The Cavaliers took the decision by a 5-2 count with the Gamecocks getting wins from Katerina Popova over Collins on court two and Blevins defeating Maci Epstein in straight sets at No. 5 singles. Carolina leads the all-time series 3-1.
Clemson is off to a 2-0 start thanks to a 6-1 win over Winthrop on Jan. 24 and a 5-0 victory against Purdue the following day that catapulted the Tigers into one of 16 spots in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Tigers will face No. 9 Georgia on Saturday at 1 p.m. before taking on the Gamecocks the next day. Clemson has two ranked singles players (Joana Eidukonyte – 27, Romy Koelzer – 85) and the nation’s No. 2-rated doubles team of Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies.
The Tigers lead the all-time series with the Gamecocks 26-23 after defeating South Carolina 5-2 in Columbia last season. Like the UVa match, Carolina’s two points came courtesy of Popova over Gumulya at two singles and Blevins over Yuilynn Miao on court four. South Carolina has not won at Clemson since earning a 6-1 victory over the Tigers on March 3, 2001.
Following the Clemson match, South Carolina will host a doubleheader against Charlotte and College of Charleston on Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to mark its first home matches of the season. Weather permitting, both matches will take place outside at Carolina Tennis Center.