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March 1, 2015

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 42 South Carolina women’s tennis team battled No. 9 Alabama for nearly six hours Sunday but fell by a 4-2 score to the Crimson Tide at the USC Field House in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks dropped to 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the SEC, while Bama improved to 9-2 and 1-1 in league play.

The Gamecocks won an exciting doubles point to grab a 1-0 lead heading to singles. The Tide struck first with ninth-ranked and defending NCAA champions Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe beating Elixane Lechemia and Hadley Berg 8-2 at the No. 1 position. Courts two and three, however, favored the Gamecocks with leads of 5-3 and 6-5.

At three, Megen Cochran and Caroline Dailey came back from a 3-1 deficit versus Luicelena Perez and Danielle Spielmann to make it 3-all and they later trailed 5-4 heading to the changeover. From there, they seized control of the match and dominated with four straight games to pick up an 8-5 victory to put the deciding match at court two. Meghan Blevins and Brigit Folland had a 6-3 lead on Natalia Maynetto and Emily Zabor at two when the No. 3 match finished.

Folland and Blevins still had a 7-4 lead after trading a pair of games on serve. Bama held serve once again to give Blevins a chance to serve out the match. Blevins and Folland surged ahead 30-0 in the game, but the Tide won three straight points for a chance to break. The Gamecocks fought back to win two straight rallies for match point, but Maynetto and Zabor got it back to deuce. Unshaken, the Gamecocks’ top duo rattled off the next two points to improve to 20-3 on the season to clinch the point with an 8-5 victory. Individually, Folland improved her impressive individual doubles record to 25-4 in 2014-15.

The match was over three and half hours old before a second point appeared on the scoreboard, as courts one, two and three all took three sets to complete, plus court four featured an exhausting first set that finished in a tiebreaker. Four ended up finishing first among the group with Zabor coming back from a 5-2 first set deficit to defeat Blevins 7-6(6), 6-1 to even the score at 1-all.

No. 64 Spielmann managed to pull the Crimson Tide ahead with her win over No. 124 Dailey at two singles. After winning the first set 6-4, Dailey counterpunched with a 6-3 victory for the second set. Dailey was behind 5-4 and 6-5 in the third before getting the match into a deciding tiebreaker. Spielmann, though, led from the outset and went on to win it 7-2.

No. 35 Routliffe pushed Alabama within a point of clinching after she came back from a dismal first set to upend No. 121 Lechemia. Lechemia cruised through the first and could do no wrong en route to a 6-1 victory. Routliffe battled through the second to win 6-4 and then with the score tied 4-all in the third, she held serve and then broke Lechemia to take the match 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Folland found herself behind 3-1 in the third against No. 56 Jansen when Lechemia dropped her match to Routliffe. Jansen won the first 7-5 and Folland answered in the second with a 6-4 victory. Despite the deficit, Folland continued to claw her way back into the match in the third and eventually got it back on serve at 3-all. Folland held to make it 4-3 and both players did likewise in the next two games as well. Up 5-4 and the pressure on Jansen to hold in order to extend the match, Folland came through with the break she needed to capture the 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory to keep the Gamecocks’ hopes alive.

Down 3-2, Berg had a 3-2 lead on court five against Perez and Cochran was behind Maynetto 2-1 at the No. 6 position. Berg went on for an easy 6-2 win in the first, while Cochran faltered in the first by a 6-1 count. Cochran turned things around in the second and led 4-2, but Maynetto got the match back on serve and then earned the break with Cochran serving down 6-5 to secure the victory for Alabama. Berg was in a third set with Perez with the score tied at 2-all when play stopped.

South Carolina has four straight SEC road matches coming up beginning Friday when it faces Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, at 6 p.m. The Gamecocks then face LSU two days later in Baton Rouge, La., at noon.

#9 Alabama def. #42 South Carolina, 4-2

1. #35 Erin Routliffe (UA) def. #121 Elixane Lechemia (SC), 1-6, 6-4, 6-4
2. #64 Danielle Spielmann (UA) def. #124 Caroline Dailey (SC), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2)
3. Brigit Folland (SC) def. #56 Maya Jansen (UA), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
4. Emily Zabor (UA) def. Meghan Blevins (SC), 7-6(6), 6-1
5. Hadley Berg (SC) vs. Luicelena Perez (UA), 6-2, 4-6, 2-2 susp.
6. Natalia Maynetto (UA) def. Megen Cochran (SC), 6-1, 7-5

Order of Finish: 4, 2, 1, 3, 6

1. #9 Jansen/Routliffe (UA) def. Berg/Lechemia (SC), 8-2
2. Blevins/Folland (SC) def. Maynetto/Zabor (UA), 8-5
3. Cochran/Dailey (SC) def. Perez/Spielmann (UA), 8-5

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2