Gamecocks Overpower No. 13 Vanderbilt 4-0
COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 22 South Carolina posted its most definitive win of the season with a 4-0 victory over No. 13 Vanderbilt Friday afternoon at Carolina Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (16-9, 6-5 SEC) were aggressive in doubles and established themselves in singles right out of the gate as well, including decisive wins at the top of the lineup. No. 67 Tsvetan Mihov allowed the nation's 10th-ranked player just two games in his commanding victory that helped set the tone for the win, which marks the highest-ranked for the Gamecocks since defeating then-No. 11 Kentucky on March 3, 2008.
"Resilience, hunger for another win and the belief that we are a top-15 team - those are the things that ring immediately in my head," South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. "This team showed character and backbone today, something we have developed over the last few years, and it's really cool to see. They stepped up to a team that's one of the best in the country and out-right believed that they should win the match. The best part of today's victory is the fact that we jumped out to two big leads on their best points - No. 1 and No. 5., who have only lost a few matches this season. Andrew [Adams] was up at No. 2 and was able to get some revenge from his match against them last year. When you're able to take a team's best players down in a convincing way, it takes the wind out of sails pretty quickly."
The Gamecocks won the doubles point for the third-straight match. At the bottom of the order, Andrew Adams and Thiago Pinheiro needed under 30 minutes to dispatch Suresh Eswaran and Jeff Offerdahl 8-0. In the No. 2 spot, 84th-ranked Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies had an early break on Rhys Johnson and Marc van der Merwe, but the Commodore tandem got it back late to get to 6-5. After Vandy held, Koch turned in a great service game to go up 7-6 and the Gamecocks used that momentum to get a pair of match points early in the Commodores' next game and closed the door for the 8-6 win.
In singles, South Carolina continued to be the aggressor. Mihov, Adams and Chip Cox each were up at least one service break within the first four games of their matches. Pinheiro was on serve in the No. 3 match, but Koch and Menzies trailed in their Nos. 4 and 6 matches, respectively. The immediate pressure from three of the top five spots in the Gamecock lineup, though, was affecting the Commodores on the other courts.
Mihov's dismantling of 10th-ranked Ryan Lipman was the first strike. After winning the first set 6-0, Mihov needed just four games to take an advantage in the second set. Rarely under pressure, the Gamecock junior used all his tools to his advantage, including patience in setting up points. That was the one that delivered match point as his working of Lipman around the court yielded a long forehand on break point to give Mihov the 6-2 victory.
"Tsvetan is a gamer," Goffi said. "The guy is a big-time match player, and gets up for big matches better than anyone I've seen in a while. He's always had the skills, but he's become much more disciplined in decision-making in big moments. That's what is making him able to beat the top players in the country right now. He's doing a much better job in the big moments and trusting his decision making."
Adams was close behind Mihov's first set win with a 6-1 win over No. 46 Gonzalez Austin in the No. 2 match. Ranked No. 102 in the nation this week, Adams wore down Austin in a 6-1 first set. Cox held his early lead against Kris Yee in the No. 5 match, responding to his changed lineup position well. Yee was serving to stay in the first set, but Cox did not let up, breaking to win the set 6-2. Among the Commodores' most reliable points, Yee was struggling against the Gamecocks' aggressive junior.
"I take my hat off to Chip Cox," Goffi said. "He's had ups and downs this season, fighting through some issues in his game. But that's the best I've seen him play all year, playing a guy that's 18-2 on the dual season and just taking it to him. [Yee] had no say in the match and no answer for what Chip was doing. It was great for Chip. I'm sorry he didn't get to finish his match, but hopefully he'll carry that level into Sunday."
Pinheiro, who had traded serves early with Offerdahl in the No. 3 match, cracked through with a break to go up 5-3. Koch got back on serve at 4-4 with a break on Court 4 just before Pinheiro survived a tough service game to win his first set 6-3. While Koch would eventually go to a first-set tiebreak, Pinheiro sprinted out to a 5-0 lead on Offerdahl. Two courts away, Adams had traded breaks early with Austin, but was making his move, winning three straight games to go up two breaks at 5-2.
From there, it was a sprint to the finish line for Adams and Pinheiro. Serving with a 6-0 lead, Pinheiro saw Offerdahl erase one match point and eventually break to stave off the defeat. Adams was also serving for the match and had two match points. After a double fault erased the first, the sophomore powered through a good serve that set up a beautiful cross court backhand winner for the 6-2 win.
Back on Court 3, Pinheiro was down early in Offerdahl's service game, but lined up his service returns to claw his way back to match point, which he set up with a great return that forced Offerdahl into a tough forehand that sailed long.
South Carolina is back in action on Sunday in the regular-season finale against No. 8 Kentucky. The Gamecocks will honor Menzies, the team's lone senior, prior to the match. First serve of doubles is set for 1 p.m. at Carolina Tennis Center. Admission to the match and parking in the Athletics Village Garage are free.
#22 South Carolina 4, #13 Vanderbilt 0
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2*
1. Ryan Lipman/Gonzales Austin (VU) led (18) Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) 7-6 suspended
2. (84) Kyle Koch/Harry Menzies (SC) def. Rhys Johnson/Marc van der Merwe (VU) 8-6
3. Thiago Pinheiro/Andrew Adams (SC) def. Suresh Eswaran/Jeff Offerdahl (VU) 8-0
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3*)
1. (67) Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. (10) Ryan Lipman (VU) 6-0, 6-2
2. (102) Andrew Adams (SC) def. (46) Gonzales Austin (VU) 6-1, 6-2
3. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Jeff Offerdahl (VU) 6-3, 6-1
4. Kyle Koch (SC) led Marc van der Merwe (VU) 7-6 (6), 0-2 suspended
5. Chip Cox (SC) led Kris Yee (VU) 6-2, 3-3 suspended
6. Rhys Johnson (VU) led Harry Menzies (SC) 6-2, 4-3 suspended