Feb. 19, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 21 South Carolina takes its four-match win streak across the country this weekend, facing off against San Diego State on Fri., Feb. 20, and No. 37 San Diego on Sun., Feb. 22. The Gamecocks (8-3) are looking to build on the momentum they established last weekend with dominant wins over Belmont, Middle Tennessee State and then-No. 21 Memphis, despite being short-handed.
“Last weekend was great. We didn’t know if Thiago [Pinheiro] was going to come back or not and be ready to play by then,” South Carolina head coach Josh Gofi said. “We decided to sit him out because the team was making good strides and that allowed the other guys to step up. Overall, it was an opportunity to get better as a team and I think we took that challenge and excelled, really ran with it. The benefits of last weekend will take us through the rest of the season and really take us through some tough times later in SEC time.”
No. 103 Kyle Koch leads the Gamecocks in what has been a dominant senior season so far. The hard-serving Irmo, S.C., product has alternated between the Nos. 2 and 3 positions this season and earned two victories last weekend to improve his dual-match record to 8-1. His contributions, however, are not limited to singles play. In his 10 doubles matches, Koch has been paired with fellow seniors Andrew Adams and Thiago Pinheiro for five matches each. Koch has been the constant, going 9-1 in dual matches to bring his overall doubles record to 17-3.
Harrison O’Keefe has held down the No. 4 position for South Carolina all season. At 16-6 overall and 9-2 in dual matches, the redshirt freshman enters the weekend on a five-match win streak. Sophomore No. 120 Andrew Schafer has been another rock for the Gamecocks. After taking each of his matches last weekend, including a three-set victory over Memphis’s No. 40 Andrew Watson, Schafer sits at 7-3 in dual-match play this season.
“Schafer, Koch and O’Keefe have been amazing,” Goffi said. “Those guys came through last weekend and were stepping up in every single way in spots that they’re not used to playing. That’s a testament to where they are right now as far as confidence in their game and confidence in what’s going on with them. They are kind of the rock of the team right now, and I think guys are counting on them to show up, as they should. The other guys are playing well, and we’re making strides in the other positions. So as long as we can get them one step forward this next weekend, hopefully by the time we get into SECs and play Auburn next weekend, they’ll be firing as well.”
Doubles play has been South Carolina’s strength this spring. The Gamecocks have taken the doubles point in 10 of 11 matches and are 20-5 in dual-match doubles. No. 46 Thomas Mayronne/O’Keefe is 11-7 overall and 5-3 in dual matches this season. In Pinheiro’s absence, the Schafer/Sam Swank pairing has been called upon to deliver out of the No. 3 position, where the sophomores have gone 3-1. Doubles play will be crucial this weekend as well as San Diego State enters the weekend with a 5-2 doubles record and San Diego comes in having taken the doubles point in six straight matches. Among the Gamecocks’ opponents this weekend, San Diego boasts the only ranked doubles pairing. No. 54 Filip Vittek/Jordan Angus headline the Toreros doubles lineup and enter the weekend with a 5-0 record.
San Diego State is coming off a 6-1 win over Pacific to improve to 4-3 on the season. The Aztecs dropped the doubles point but rallied to win all six singles matches to take the victory. Senior Thorsten Bertsch and junior Freddy Gelbrich highlight the San Diego State singles lineup. Bertsch played his first four matches out of the No. 1 position, going 2-2, while Gelbrich went 3-1 out of the No. 2 spot. The two have since swapped positions with Bertsch going 1-0 in two matches at No. 2 while Gelbrich has gone 1-1 in the lineup’s premier position.
No. 37 San Diego opened its season with consecutive losses to ranked SEC opponents. After falling to then-No. 45 LSU, the Toreros dropped a decision to then-No. 10 Texas A&M. The following week, San Diego downed then-No. 21 South Florida. The victory sparked a six-match win streak that they carry into the match against the Gamecocks. San Diego’s roster features two ranked singles players, No. 82 Uros Petronijevic and No. 83 Vittek. Petronijevic has played all but one match out of the No. 1 position and is 3-4 in dual-match play. Vittek has played in all eight matches this spring, primarily out of the No. 2 position, amassing a 6-0 record.
Upon returning from their west coast trip, the Gamecocks open SEC play on the road against Auburn and Florida on February 26 and 28, respectively. The Gamecocks return to Columbia on March 6 when they host LSU at 5 p.m.