May 7, 2015
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — The No. 29-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team will take on No. 45 Princeton on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Charlottesville, Va., in first-round NCAA Tournament action at Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center. Also competing in the Charlottesville regional are host and No. 8-ranked Virginia and VCU, who play Saturday at noon. The winners square off Sunday at noon for the right to play at Baylor University’s Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas, at the NCAA Championships from May 15-19.
1. #40 Hadley Berg/Caroline Dailey
2. Meghan Blevins/Megen Cochran
3. Elixane Lechemia/Ximena Siles Luna
NCAA EXCELLENCE: Overall, South Carolina has been selected for the NCAA Tournament 25 times in 34 years. With 25 bids, South Carolina has the 13th most NCAA appearances in the country. South Carolina’s 21 NCAA appearances in a row are tied for the 11th longest active streak in the nation as well. South Carolina has reached the round of 16 six times (1983, 1983, 1990, 1995, 1999, 2009) and advanced as far as the quarterfinals twice (1982, 2009). The Gamecocks have also won at least one round in the tournament 17 times during their previous 20 appearances.
ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS: The Gamecocks enter the tournament with a 14-10 record overall and went 6-7 in SEC play. Individually, Elixane Lechemia is ranked No. 45 and Caroline Dailey is No. 121. In doubles, Dailey and Hadley Berg top the Gamecocks’ list with a No. 40 ranking, while Meghan Blevins and Brigit Folland are No. 60. Blevins, this year’s team MVP, owns a 27-8 singles record to lead the team and she went 27-11 in doubles contests. Kevin Epley, now in his third year with the Gamecocks, has led South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first three seasons at the school.
ABOUT THE TIGERS: Princeton, ranked 45th, is 12-8 after winning the Ivy League title with a 6-1 conference record during the regular season. The Tigers clinched the automatic NCAA bid for the second year in a row after defeating Cornell, 4-3, on April 19. Last season, the Tigers won their first NCAA Tournament match in school history with an upset against Arizona State in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Princeton is coached by former Stanford All-American and NCAA singles champion Laura Granville, now in her third year with the program.
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: No. 8 Virginia brings a six-match winning streak into the NCAA Tournament after winning the ACC Tournament for the second year in a row. The Cavaliers, who are 21-5, became the first school since Georgia Tech from 2005 to 2007 to win consecutive ACC Tournament crowns. Virginia has three players ranked in the top 40 with Julia Elbaba (6), Danielle Collins (15) and Stephanie Nauta (40). The Cavaliers also have three ranked doubles teams: Elbaba/Skylar Morton (28), Morton/Cassie Mercer (61) and Maci Epstein/Marie Faure (75). Head coach Mark Gilbeau is in his 10th season at UVa and has taken the Cavaliers to at least the NCAA Sweet 16 four straight years, including an Elite 8 appearance a year ago.
ABOUT THE RAMS: VCU is making its 10th consecutive and 17th overall NCAA appearance after winning the Atlantic 10 title for the third year in a row. The Rams own a 16-8 record and are led by Atlantic 10 Most Outstanding Performer and 64th-ranked Cindy Chala, who racked up an 18-1 mark in singles action this spring. Chala is also ranked No. 87 with Salome Kvitashvili in doubles. Paul Kostin is in his 14th season as head coach of the women’s team and has also served as head coach of the men’s team since 1990-91.
SERIES HISTORIES: South Carolina and Princeton have little history with the Gamecocks winning the only previous meeting, 7-2, in 1985. The Gamecocks and UVa have played five times with South Carolina holding a 3-2 edge, and Carolina holds a 5-2 advantage over VCU. South Carolina has played Virginia in Charlottesville the past two seasons with the Cavaliers winning a pair of close 5-2 decisions.
FAMILIAR TERRITORY: While South Carolina has never played in the NCAA Tournament in the state of Virginia, the Gamecocks are quite familiar with Charlottesville over the past few seasons. South Carolina played in the UVa Fall Classic in September 2012 and then played Virginia on the road the past two seasons. The Gamecocks lost to the Cavaliers 5-2 in 2014 and 5-2 this past January as well. In the most recent match-up, sophomore Caroline Dailey defeated reigning NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins and senior Elixane Lechemia narrowly lost in three sets to Julia Elbaba, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time of the contest.
LECHEMIA RECEIVES SINGLES BID: Senior Elixane Lechemia received a bid to this year’s NCAA Singles Championship. The 64-person event takes place starting May 20 in Waco, Texas, and concludes May 25. Lechemia, currently ranked 45th, played No. 1 singles for the Gamecocks all spring and compiled an 11-8 record at the position en route to second-team All-SEC honors. Lechemia competed in the NCAA Doubles Championship last year with Dominika Kanakova. She is just the ninth Gamecock to play in both NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships during her career. The last to do so was Ana Marija Zubori when she played both events in 2009.
GAMECOCKS AND THE INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: With senior Elixane Lechemia’s selection to the NCAA Singles Championship, South Carolina has placed a singles competitor or doubles team in 27 of 34 NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. Laura Bernstein remains the only Gamecock to advance as far as the round of 16 in singles, doing so in 1983. She is also the only Gamecock singles All-American in school history. Anya Morgina was the last player from South Carolina to compete in the singles tournament in 2012 when she reached the second round. Morgina nearly became South Carolina’s second All-American after winning the first set against Texas’ Aeriel Ellis and earning multiple match points in a second-set tiebreaker, but Ellis managed to win it and the third set. Players who win at least two rounds in the singles and/or doubles events automatically receive All-America status. That’s what Helen Crook and Victoria Davies did in 1994 when they reached the semifinals of the doubles championship, the best finish in school history for the event. Crook and Davies are the Gamecocks’ only doubles All-Americans.
HONOR ROLL: Senior Elixane Lechemia took home All-SEC Second Team honors this season after going 11-8 at No. 1 singles to include a 6-5 record in league play. Lechemia earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team a year ago as well. In March, sophomore Brigit Folland was named SEC Player of the Week following a pair of three-set victories against Auburn and Alabama. Following the SEC Tournament, senior Meghan Blevins was named the team’s MVP after winning 27 singles and 27 doubles matches during the season.
THE EPLEY ERA: The Gamecocks’ head man Kevin Epley took over at South Carolina in June 2012 following the death of college tennis coaching legend Arlo Elkins. Epley has taken the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons and has never missed NCAAs in his 11 years as a head coach. Epley has advanced his teams to at least the second round of the tournament eight times. His all-time record stands at 195-92 heading into this year’s NCAA Tournament.
BIG YEAR FOR BLEVINS: Senior Meghan Blevins was named this year’s team MVP after an incredible final season. She leads the team in singles wins with 27 and posted the same number of victories in doubles as an individual. Blevins also has the squad’s top mark in duals with a 15-6 record. Her 54 combined victories this season are tied for the sixth most in a single season in South Carolina history with Biljana Mirkovic, who posted 54 wins in both 1986-87 and 1987-88. One more win will push Blevins into a tie for fourth with Helen Crook and Victoria Davies who both had 55 in 1993-94. Nathalie Rodriguez holds the all-time record with 62 victories in 1989-90.
NCAA FORMAT HISTORY: The NCAA first held a championship for women’s tennis in 1982 in Salt Lake City. For the first six championships, the field consisted of just 16 teams and expanded to 20 starting in 1988. From 1988 to 1995, eight of the 20 teams selected played first-round matches and the other 12 received byes. From 1996 to 1998, the NCAA changed the format to include 58 teams, with 10 receiving automatic bids to the 16-team championship. The other six spots were determined through tournaments in six regions (East, Central, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, West) with eight schools in each. In 1999, the NCAA adopted what is still the current format of a 64-team bracket where each team must play every round. First- and second-round matches are played at 16 campus sites with four teams each, and the round of 16 and beyond is held at one institution. Starting in 2006, the NCAA combined the men’s and women’s round of 16 and beyond at the same location over the same time frame and included the individual championships there as well.