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Feb. 25, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A long stretch of road matches continues for No. 34 South Carolina (8-5), which opens SEC play this weekend, traveling to No. 28 Auburn (10-2) on Thu., Feb. 26, and No. 17 Florida (5-2) on Sat., Feb. 28.

Senior Kyle Koch and redshirt freshman Harrison O’Keefe, who boast the Gamecocks’ most impressive singles records, look to lead the team back on track after last weekend’s losses. Koch, who has played the majority of his matches at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions, enters SEC play 17-7 overall and 8-3 in dual matches. O’Keefe, who has held down the back end of the South Carolina lineup, playing out of the No. 4 or 5 position, is 17-7 overall, 10-3 in dual-match singles, and has won six of his last seven matches. No. 101 Andrew Schafer has been a workhorse for the Gamecocks this season, playing in nine matches that have seen a third set, including a win over Memphis freshman No. 40 Andrew Watson on February 15.

Doubles play has been the highlight of the Gamecocks’ season thus far. South Carolina had won five consecutive doubles points before dropping the point in Friday’s match at San Diego State. The team quickly recovered, however, taking the doubles point against San Diego on Sunday. Highlighting the performance was No. 44 pairing Thomas Mayronne/O’Keefe, which has been a constant for the Gamecocks this season, amassing records of 13-7 overall and 7-3 in dual-match play.

Auburn is led by senior No. 37 Lucas Ollert, who enters the match against the Gamecocks 20-5 overall and 9-0 in dual-match singles, playing all but one match out of the Tigers’ No. 1 position. No. 95 Marko Krickovic and No. 118 Maxime Hinnisdaels round out the remainder of the Tigers’ top half of the singles lineup and lay claim to an 18-3 combined dual-match record. Auburn has four wins over ranked opponents this season, including a 6-1 win over then-No. 34 Clemson, the Gamecocks’ and Tigers’ only common opponent thus far. South Carolina defeated Clemson by an identical score on January 31. South Carolina won last season’s meeting against Auburn 4-1.

Saturday’s match against Florida will be the Gamecocks’ second against a top-20 opponent this season. The Gators have played five consecutive matches against top-40 foes, three of which were against a top-15 opponent. Within that span, Florida earned wins over Florida State, UCLA and Stanford and fell to Southern Cal and Ole Miss. The Gators will take on No. 7 Georgia on Thursday before hosting the Gamecocks.

Florida’s roster features a trio of ranked singles players. Junior No. 46 Diego Hidalgo is 6-0 in dual matches, playing primarily out of the Nos. 3 and 4 positions. Hidalgo played last weekend out of the No. 2 slot, topping No. 119 Marco Nunez of Florida State in three sets. Sophomore No. 103 Maxx Lipman has played every match out of the No. 1 position for the Gators, but is 0-4 on the season. Sophomore No. 80 Elliott Orkin rounds out the Gators’ ranked singles players and enters the weekend with 4-3 dual-match record.

After this weekend’s matches, the Gamecocks make their much-awaited return to Columbia. They will host No. 31 LSU on Fri., Mar. 6, at 5 p.m. and No. 9 Texas A&M and Coastal Carolina on Sun., Mar. 8, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.