Gamecocks Battle Back to Earn Top-20 Win Over Tar Heels
Columbia, S.C. – No. 9 South Carolina men’s tennis earned their first win over the No. 18 North Carolina Tar Heels since 2003 on Sunday. The Gamecocks took the doubles point but fell to 1-3 before storming back to win the match.
Doubles matches were intense with Courts 1 and 3 both evenly trading points. On Court 2, Jake Beasley and James Story got off to a hot start, going up 5-1, but their opponents fought back, taking three straight games to bring the score within one. The Gamecock pair was finally able to get the job done, winning the next game to take their match 6-4.
On Court 3, Raphael Lambling and Casey Hoole were in a tight match, exchanging points until 3-3 when the Gamecock pair won three unanswered games to take the match 6-3, securing what proved to be a critical doubles point for South Carolina.
Play transitioned to singles where the Tar Heels appeared to have the upper hand, winning Courts 5, 6, and 3 to go up 3-1 and be within one point of the match win. Things were tense as North Carolina had already earned first sets at the top two positions in the lineup.
The added pressure was no issue for Story who had already taken his first set 6-3 and was battling back after going down early in the second set. After falling 0-2 in the second, the junior gained some momentum, tying the set up at 3-3 before suffering another break and falling to 4-5. Story then righted his ship, earning back-to-back breaks to take the second set 7-5.
The overall match win was still in grasping distance for the Tar Heels who were now leading 3-2, but the upper-classmen experience and grit of juniors Toby Samuel and Connor Thomson had a response.
Samuel had a rough start to his match, giving up his first set 2-6 and going down 0-3 in the second set. The 15th ranked Gamecock managed to turn the corner to tie the set up a 4-4, but immediately gave up a break point to go back down 4-5. Samuel then responded with a break of his own and won his next service game to take his first lead of the set. With his opponent Brian Cernoch serving, Samuel gave it his all to win the game and even the match with a 7-5 second set.
The Court 1 match went to a third set that proved to be just as intense as the one previous. Samuel took the first game then gave up a break on his next serve to go down 1-3 early. The junior then restored his balance, taking a break point from Cernoch to go up 4-3. The Tar Heel served his way back up to 4-4, but Samuel had a perfectly timed break to end the match, winning the final set 6-4.
With the overall match tied at 3-3, the decision came down to Court 2 where Thomson was battling the nation’s No. 9 player Ryan Seggerman. The Tar Heel earned a break mid-way through the first set to win it 6-4, but Thomson ran away with the second set 6-2 to even the match.
With a crowd over 200 people strong, all eyes were on the final set for the match decision. Thomson served first in the set but gave up a break point to Seggerman. On Seggerman’s serve, Thomson broke the Tar Heel right back to put the final set at 1-1. The competitors each claimed their next two service games to put the set score at 3-3. Thomson won his next service game and a break to go up 5-3, but Seggerman took the break right back, coming within one game at 5-4. On Seggerman’s final serve, Thomson secure the match clinching break point, winning the final set 6-4 to give the Gamecocks the overall match win, 4-3.
Thomson’s win over No. 9 marks the highest ranked win of his career. The junior had a previous career-high ranked win of No. 10 which came just two weeks ago at the Miami Spring Invite where he defeated Georgia’s Phillip Henning.
The match win marks South Carolina’s first win of the series against North Carolina since 2003. The Gamecock’s last win over the Tar Heels at home came in February of 2002. North Carolina had won the last ten matchups of the series.
The win is also head coach Josh Goffi’s first win over the Tar Heels in his 13 year tenure at South Carolina. The two teams have faced five times previously under Goffi.
The Gamecocks will be in action again next weekend at home as they host the ITA Kickoff Weekend event. South Carolina will welcome teams from Penn, VCU and NC State to the Carolina Indoor Tennis Center. The Gamecocks will take on Penn on Sat., Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. and will play either VCU or NC State on Sun., Jan. 29 at a time to be determined. The winner of the weekend will advance to the ITA Indoor National Championships in Chicago, Ill.
For all the latest South Carolina men’s tennis information, continue to follow GamecocksOnline.com or the team on social media (@GamecockMTennis).
(9) South Carolina 4, (18) North Carolina 3
Doubles (order of finish: 2, 3)
- #1 Toby Samuel/Connor Thomson (SC) vs. Ryan Seggerman/Casey Kania (NC) 6-6 (1-5), unfinished
- Jake Beasley/James Story (SC) def. Brian Cernoch/Benjamin Kittay (NC) 6-4
- Raphael Lambling/Casey Hoole (SC) def. Peter Murphy/Karl Poling (NC) 6-3
Singles (order of finish: 5, 6, 3, 4, 1, 2)
- #15 Toby Samuel (SC) def. Brian Cernoch (NC) 2-6, 7-5, 6-4
- Connor Thomson (SC) def. #9 Ryan Seggerman (NC) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
- Karl Poling (NC) def. Raphael Lambling (SC) 6-4, 6-2
- James Story (SC) def. Anuj Watane (NC) 6-3, 7-5
- Chris Li (NC) def. #56 Casey Hoole (SC) 6-2, 6-4
- Peter Murphy (NC) def. Jake Beasley (SC) 6-4, 6-1