South Carolina Hosts Kentucky, Vanderbilt
COLUMBIA, S.C. (March 8, 2012) — The No. 38 South Carolina women’s tennis team will look to pick up a pair of SEC victories this week when it hosts Kentucky and No. 22 Vanderbilt on Friday and Sunday at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C. First serve for the Gamecocks’ match-up with the Wildcats is slated for 3 p.m., while the contest with the Commodores will begin at 1 p.m.
“Every match in our conference is tough,” interim head coach Katarina Petrovic said. “Kentucky has improved. They have a stronger lineup than last year and it’s going to be tough. With Vanderbilt, what can make a difference from last year is the girls were not as fired up for that match. If everybody gives 100 percent effort in both singles and doubles we’ll have a good competition.”
The Gamecocks (7-3, 0-2 SEC) suffered two losses to open SEC play with tough road matches at then-No. 4 Georgia and then-No. 5 Tennessee last week. The Gamecocks fell by a 6-1 score to the Bulldogs before taking a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Lady Volunteers. The last four meetings between UT and Carolina have been decided by one point, and three of those matches have ended in favor of Tennessee.
Versus the Lady Vols, South Carolina lost the doubles point but fought back to win on courts four, five and six. At two, Jaklin Alawi fell behind in her third set to Kata Szekely by a 5-2 score before coming back to force a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Alawi got off to a 4-1 lead, but Szekely claimed six of the next seven points to tie the team score at 3-all and set up the winning point from Caitlyn Williams at No. 3 singles against Dominika Kanakova.
Adriana Pereira had two standout performances in the losses to UT and UGA with a pair of wins at No. 5 singles. Against Georgia, she beat No. 69 Kate Fuller in straight sets to mark the highest ranked win of her career. With the two wins, Pereira improved to 12-4 overall and 4-3 in dual matches.
“In those two matches, I was under control and dictating the points,” Pereira said. “I was moving both of them really well. I was also moving really well on the court. I just hope I can keep doing these things to help the team be successful.”
In the latest rankings, Anya Morgina is ranked No. 34, followed by No. 64 Alawi and No. 71 Dijana Stojic. In doubles, Alawi and Morgina are ranked No. 52, however, the two did not play doubles together last weekend. Morgina partnered with Kanakova at the top spot and Alawi was listed at No. 2 doubles with Pereira. Katerina Popova and Josefin Andersson played the No. 3 position and will continue to do so for this week’s matches.
The Gamecocks will use a different combo this week at No. 1 doubles with Alawi and Kanakova, while Morgina will team with Pereira on court two. Alawi and Kanakova played one tournament in the fall, the Wildcat Invitational, and reached the finals together. Morgina and Pereira have not played a match together this year, but the two did play one match last year. Coincidentally, that one match came at Kentucky at the No. 2 position. Two years ago, Morgina and Pereira compiled a 7-6 record playing No. 3 doubles and were 6-4 in SEC matches.
Kentucky (8-5, 0-2 SEC) opened SEC play at home against LSU and Arkansas. Due to severe weather in the central Kentucky area, the match set for Friday against LSU was rescheduled for Saturday morning. The match started at 9:30 a.m. and was close throughout. Junior Jessica Stiles and freshmen Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Stephanie Fox grabbed singles victories for the Wildcats, but they ultimately dropped a 4-3 decision. Next, the Cats took on Arkansas and played an almost identical match, as Arkansas was able to edge out Kentucky for the 4-3 victory.
The Vanderbilt Commodores (10-4, 2-0 SEC) swept the first weekend of conference play with 7-0 wins over then-No. 31 Arkansas and then-No. 43 LSU. Freshman Ashleigh Antal picked up her 10th and 11th wins of the spring season to lead the team, while Nelly Radeva and Lauren Mira each clinched a match with their victories. Vanderbilt won 18 of its 19 sets played, allowing only one split match over the weekend.
The Gamecocks own a 16-14 advantage in the all-time series with Kentucky and have won the past five meetings between the two schools. Last year, South Carolina scored a 6-1 victory over the Wildcats in Lexington, Ky. Vanderbilt leads the series with South Carolina 16-12 and beat the Gamecocks 4-3 in Nashville, Tenn., a year ago. The Commodores, though, have not won in Columbia since 2006.