March 13, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 38 South Carolina men’s tennis opens a two-match road swing at No. 55 Tennessee Saturday afternoon after going 2-1 in its last three SEC outings. The Gamecocks (11-8, 2-3 SEC) have been buoyed by their return to a full lineup with seniors occupying the top three singles spots and a pair of nationally ranked doubles teams ready to put the team on the board right away. Saturday’s match will air live on SEC Network +.
After injury and illness had the Gamecocks out of position throughout both the singles and doubles lineups most of the season, the team has settled into consistent roles the last four matches, during which South Carolina is 3-1, including a pair of SEC victories. Senior Andrew Adams is back at the top of the lineup looking for a strong finish to his career. Senior Kyle Koch occupies the No. 2 spot in the singles lineup and is on the verge of making history in the doubles lineup as he is currently tied for the school record in career doubles wins. The Irmo, S.C., product is among the most productive Gamecocks both this season and in his career. He is 20-10 in singles this season, including an 11-6 dual-match record playing higher in the lineup than previously in his career. Another senior sidelined for much of the spring is Thiago Pinheiro, who teams with Koch in doubles to form the No. 44 tandem in the nation. The duo delivered the doubles point in the last match and is riding a three-match win streak. In singles, Pinheiro has spent his career as the heart and soul of the team with the ability to shift momentum across all courts with the patient way he battles every opponent.
Tennessee is 9-7 on the season with a 1-3 mark in SEC action after playing its first three league matches on the road. The Vols have been rock solid at the top of the singles lineup where No. 14 Mikelis Libietis is a perfect 10-0 and Hunter Reese adds a 3-0 mark. The Nos. 3 and 4 spots have been the next most reliable points for Tennessee. No. 95 Jack Schipanksi is 5-3 in the No. 3 position, including a 1-2 mark in SEC action. Luis Valero is currently in the No. 4 spot for the Vols, toting a 5-4 record in the position to make his season slate 13-14. Libietis and Reese dominate at the top of the doubles lineup with a 15-4 record on the season that has them ranked No. 2 in the nation. They are 8-4 in dual matches, including a 1-2 mark in SEC play following Thursday’s loss to the nation’s seventh-ranked tandem from Georgia.
Following Saturday’s match, the Gamecocks will enjoy a slight lull in their schedule over the next two weeks. South Carolina will have a week to gear up for a showdown at No. 3 Georgia on Sun., March 22, before returning home to host a doubleheader a week later on March 29 against No. 11 Vanderbilt and The Citadel.