Men’s Tennis Books Ticket to First NCAA Quarterfinals Since 1989
Knoxville, Tenn. – No. 8 South Carolina men’s tennis defeated No. 9 Tennessee in Knoxville 4-2 on Saturday to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 1989. The Gamecocks took the doubles point and secured wins on three singles courts in the victory.
In doubles, the Gamecocks struck first with a 6-3 win on Court 3, courtesy of Casey Hoole and Raphael Lambling. The Volunteers were quick to even the decision, with No. 59 Emile Hudd and Shunsuke Mitsui defeating No. 48 Jake Beasley and James Story 6-4.
The decision came down to Court 1 where the nation’s No. 1 pair of Connor Thomson and Toby Samuel taking on No. 4 Pat Harper and Johannus Monday. The match was dead even throughout with no breaks either way, sending it to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, play was again dead even with both teams claiming their own points until Harper managed to give the Gamecocks the lead after missing an overhead at 5-5 for South Carolina to lead 6-5. From there, Thomson was able to close out the match with a powerful serve that the Volunteers couldn’t return, clinching the doubles point at 7-6(5).
With the lead in their hands, the Gamecocks transitioned to singles but got off to a slow start, only taking one first set across all six courts. The lone winning set came from No. 116 Story on Court 3 who was taking on Tennessee’s Blaise Bicknell. Story took the first set 6-3 and followed it up with a dominant second set, winning it 6-1 to give South Carolina a 2-0 lead.
The next two singles matches fell in favor of the Volunteers with Tennessee taking wins on Courts 5 and 6 to even the match at 2-2.
The Gamecocks were able to flip all three remaining matches, forcing third sets on courts 1, 2, and 4. No. 122 Lambling was the first Gamecock to secure a comeback victory, his coming against No. 117 Mitsui. The Volunteer took the first set 6-3, but Lambling responded, taking the second set by the same margin. The third and final set was all Lambling with the fifth-year senior shutting out his opponent 6-0 to claim the point, putting the Gamecocks in a 3-2 lead.
Both matches on Courts 1 and 2 were in heated third sets but it was Thomson who ultimately clinched the match for the team. No. 16 Thomson faced a rematch against No. 31 Hudd from earlier in the SEC season and Thomson was out for revenge. The first set started with an early break from Thomson, but Hudd was able to battle back, securing a break of his own midway through to tie the set back up and timing a second break perfectly to claim the first set 7-5.
Thomson came back with a vengeance in the second set, earning a pair of back-to-back breaks to dominate the set 6-2.
In the final set, Hudd appeared to have the upper hand, breaking Thomson on his second serve to jump out to a 4-1 lead. The Gamecock refused to give in though, later taking the break back to tie it at four all. From there, both players took their own service games, forcing the match to be decided in a tiebreaker.
In the breaker, Thomson drew first blood but Hudd was never far behind, tying at one all and again at two all. The Volunteer was finally able to take his first lead of the breaker at 3-2, but Thomson again dug deep to claim the next four points, taking the lead 6-3. Hudd was only able to get one more point on the board before Thomson claimed the win 7-6(4).
The win marks South Carolina’s first trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals since 1989. During the 1989 season, the team advanced to the semifinal match.
The Gamecocks will face the winner of No. 1 seed Texas and No. 16 seed North Carolina at the USTA National Campus in Orlando on Thursday, May 18. Match times will be announced at a later date.
For all the latest South Carolina men’s tennis information, continue to follow GamecocksOnline.com or the team on social media (@GamecockMTennis).
(8) South Carolina 4, (9) Tennessee 2
Doubles (order of finish: 3, 2, 1)
- #1 Connor Thomson/Toby Samuel (SC) def. #4 Johannus Monday/Pat Harper (UT) 7-6 (7-5)
- #59 Emile Hudd/Shunsuke Mitsui (UT) def. #48 Jake Beasley/James Story (SC) 6-4
- Casey Hoole/Raphael Lambling (SC) def. Angel Diaz/Martim Prata (UT) 6-3
Singles (order of finish: 3, 5, 6, 4, 2)
- #5 Johannus Monday (UT) vs. #10 Toby Samuel (SC) 7-6 (7-1), 5-7, 5-4, unfinished
- #16 Connor Thomson (SC) def. #31 Emile Hudd (UT) 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4)
- #116 James Story (SC) def. Blaise Bicknell (UT) 6-3, 6-1
- #122 Raphael Lambling (SC) def. #117 Shunsuke Mitsui (UT) 3-6, 6-3, 6-0
- Angel Diaz (UT) def. #102 Casey Hoole (SC) 6-2, 6-3
- Tomas Rodriguez (UT) def. Lucas da Silva (SC) 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)