COLUMBIA, S.C. March 1, 2012 – No. 22 South Carolina men’s tennis kicks off its SEC schedule this weekend as No. 6 Georgia and No. 19 Tennessee visit Carolina Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (10-1) host the Bulldogs on Fri., March 1, at 2:30 p.m. with free pom-poms for the first 50 fans. The Vols are on the slate for a 1 p.m. match on Sun., March 4. Admission for all tennis matches is free.
“This weekend is a tough test for the team, the toughest we’ve faced so far,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “With a young team, it’s always interesting to see how they approach and will perform in each new situation. Being ranked 22nd this week has given the guys some confidence as we face teams with big traditions and high rankings. We’re certainly not over-confident, but we’re not going to cower either. We’re definitely looking forward to the weekend.”
The Gamecocks’ 10-1 record matches the start of the 2009 squad, which opened SEC play with two more wins en route to an NCAA Tournament berth. It was the last time South Carolina appeared in the postseason event. The current No. 22 ranking is the highest for the program since April 2005. Individually, sophomore Nick Jones also earned a national ranking this week, debuting at No. 92. It is the first national rank of his college career and the first for a Gamecock since Pedro Campos finished the 2010 season ranked 33rd in the country. Jones brings a 10-7 record into the weekend’s matches, including a 2-3 mark in the No. 1 singles spot.
Georgia enters SEC play after facing a tough slate of non-conference competition, including three top-30 teams. Five of the six players in the Bulldogs’ singles lineup are ranked among the top 50 in the nation, led by No. 3 Wil Spencer and No. 11 Sadio Doumbia. The duo has combined for a 6-1 record in the No. 1 singles position and has posted five more wins in the No. 2 spot in the order. Junior KU Singh is 9-0 in dual matches this spring to rank No. 35 in the nation. No. 43 Ignacio Taboada and No. 47 Hernus Pieters round out the ranked group, holding down the lower half of the Bulldog singles lineup. Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux are the nation’s seventh-ranked doubles team with a 10-7 overall record built largely outside of dual-match play. Doumbia and Taboada combine to form the No. 12 doubles team in the nation behind a perfect 3-0 mark in the second spot in the lineup.
Tennessee travels to Florida on Friday before arriving in Columbia for Sunday’s match. The Vols are 7-6 overall but have not played a true road match yet this season. Tennessee bounced back from a six-match skid by winning its last three outings, all played as part of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala., last weekend. The Vols have a pair of ranked singles players who also combine to form the nation’s No. 17 doubles tandem. Mikelis Libietis is No. 36 this week with a 14-5 overall record that includes a 6-4 mark in the Vols’ top singles spot. His doubles partner Hunter Reese is ranked 95th in the nation behind a 10-8 record, although he is just 4-6 in the No. 3 singles position. The duo is 14-4, including an 8-2 record at the top of the Vols’ doubles lineup.
Following this weekend’s matches, South Carolina takes to the road for its next three matches, the last of which will be a showdown with arch rival Clemson on March 14. The Gamecocks are back at Carolina Tennis Center for a non-conference doubleheader on March 18.