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April 14, 2015

Preview | Live Scoring | Schedule | Roster | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Gamecocks Host SEC Tournament


COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 28th-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team opens play in the SEC Tournament on Thursday as the No. 7 seed taking on 10th-seeded Mississippi State at 2 p.m.

The Gamecocks are hosting this year’s event at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. The event begins Wednesday at 10 a.m. with a pair of matches featuring No. 12-seeded Auburn against No. 13-seeded Tennessee and No. 11-seeded Arkansas versus No. 14-seeded Missouri. Admission is free and parking is available in the Athletics Village Parking Garage located on Heyward Street. Carolina Tennis Center’s address is 1316 Heyward Street, Columbia, SC 29208.

South Carolina (14-9, 6-7 SEC) comes into the tournament on the heels of a narrow 4-2 defeat at the hands of then-No. 5 Georgia on Sunday. The Gamecocks took the doubles point from the Bulldogs with Hadley Berg and Caroline Dailey upsetting then-20th-ranked Lauren Herring and Ellen Perez on court one, and Megen Cochran and Elixane Lechemia upending Laura Patterson and Caroline Brinson at three. Meghan Blevins gave the Gamecocks a win at No. 4 singles, but the Bulldogs got straight set victories at spots two, five and six, and then won in three sets at No. 3 singles to clinch the victory.

The Gamecocks got all they could handle from Tennessee two days prior to the Georgia contest, with the nearly-seven-hour-affair coming down to the final match left on court to decide the winner. UT took the doubles point and then thunderstorms forced play inside just as singles got started. Once play resumed, South Carolina took positions one, four and six handily and then received a pair of tiebreakers in their favor from Ximena Siles Luna at No. 5 singles to deliver the 4-3 victory and snap a five-match skid to the Volunteers.

Earlier in the season, the Gamecocks had to fight their way past No. 42 Mississippi State (14-10, 4-9 SEC) as a squad ranked 16 spots below the Bulldogs. South Carolina entered the match ranked No. 43, while MSU held a rating of 27th after stunning Alabama the previous weekend. The Gamecocks took the doubles point with a pair of 8-3 wins on courts one and three and won in straight sets on courts three, four and six. Meghan Blevins got the clincher at the No. 4 spot as the lone remaining match.

Mississippi State closed out the regular season slate on the road at Ole Miss on Saturday. After dropping the doubles point to open the match, the Bulldogs took three singles matches, including Jasmine Lee’s 6-2, 6-2 win against then-12th-ranked Julia Jones on court one. However, the Bulldogs came up just short in a fierce, three-set battle on court six, and Ole Miss took a close 4-3 victory.

The latest ITA rankings released Tuesday have Lechemia listed at a career-high No. 44 in singles. In doubles, the Gamecocks have four ranked teams, the most at one time since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1991-92. Berg and Dailey top the list at No. 40, up 18 spots after their big win against Herring and Perez of Georgia. Blevins and Folland are at No. 46, Berg and Lechemia are No. 67, and Dailey and Megen Cochran are rated No. 74.

The Gamecocks are competing in their 24th SEC Tournament this season and own an all-time record of 20-23. The Gamecocks have reached the finals on one occasion (2002) and the semifinals four times (1995, 1999, 2002, 2010). Carolina has competed in at least the quarterfinals all but four times (1993, 2004, 2008, 2013) as well. South Carolina suffered a narrow 4-2 defeat to 2014 regular-season champion Alabama last year in the quarterfinals in Columbia, Mo.

The first and only other time South Carolina hosted the SEC Tournament came in 2002 when the Gamecocks played at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center. South Carolina had a bye in the first round that season and defeated Tennessee in its quarterfinal match-up. In the semifinals, Carolina stunned No. 1-ranked Georgia, 4-2, to advance to the championship match. Florida defeated the Gamecocks 4-1 in the final.