Gamecocks Host No. 18 Auburn on Friday, No. 8 Alabama on Sunday
COLUMBIA, SC March 21, 2013 – The 49th-ranked South Carolina women’s tennis team will host a pair of top-20 teams this weekend at Carolina Tennis Center. No. 18 Auburn will take on the Gamecocks at 5 p.m. on Friday and then No. 8 Alabama visits Columbia, S.C., for a 1:30 p.m. match-up.
South Carolina (8-7, 1-4 SEC) suffered two setbacks last weekend, losing first to No. 28 Tennessee by a 4-2 score and then 7-0 to No. 5 Georgia at Carolina Tennis Center. In the singles rankings, senior Jaklin Alawi remains the highest ranked player on the team with a No. 78 billing, while junior Katerina Popova is No. 102. Popova has the squad’s best singles record in dual matches with a 9-4 slate. The Gamecocks have been strong all season long in doubles, winning the point 11 times in 15 contests. Despite the loss to the Lady Volunteers, the Gamecocks did take the doubles point from UT for the first time since 2009. Popova and senior Josefin Andersson have the most wins in duals with a 10-3 record together, while Alawi and Dominika Kanakova are close behind at 9-3. Elixane Lechemia and Ximena Siles Luna have also been strong together, going 4-2 and 3-1 in league play at No. 3 doubles.
Alabama (13-1, 5-0 SEC) won a 4-3 thriller over the Auburn Tigers last week to remain unbeaten in the SEC. After dropping the doubles point, the Crimson Tide won two straight in singles for the 2-1 edge. The two teams then traded points, eventually setting up for the 3-3 tie, leaving the deciding point to court six. After cruising to a 6-1 first set win, Alabama freshman Natalia Maynetto dropped the second and then found herself down 5-1 in the third against Auburn senior Plamena Kurteva. From there, Maynetto went on a tear, picking up six straight games to win the set and the match. The Crimson Tide boast four nationally ranked singles players with Mary Anne Macfarlane (25), Alex Guarachi (60), Maya Jansen (73) and Maynetto (115). Macfarlane and Guarachi also comprise the nation’s No. 6-rated doubles tandem.
Auburn (14-2, 4-1 SEC) had a school record 14-match winning streak before losing to the Tide, marking its first loss since Jan. 26 to No. 1 North Carolina. The Tigers are still undefeated at home with an 11-0 record. Against Alabama, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead with their 15th straight doubles victory. In singles, Pleun Burgmans overcame Macfarlane 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) at the top spot, the fourth win by the Tiger freshman over a ranked opponent. Also winning for the Tigers was sophomore Emily Flickinger, who defeated Jansen 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 on court three. The win was the first over a ranked singles opponent in her collegiate career. Burgmans is the lone ranked singles competitor for Auburn at No. 51, while Burgmans and Plamena Kurteva are ranked No. 54 in doubles. Jen Pfeifler and Jackie Kasler form the No. 47 duo in the land as well.
The Gamecocks do hold the all-time edge in both series with Auburn and Alabama. South Carolina is 14-8 versus the Crimson Tide but did take a 7-0 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last season. Prior to the loss, the Gamecocks had five consecutive wins over Alabama. The Crimson Tide has not won a match in Columbia since 2003.
South Carolina has a dominant advantage over the Tigers since first playing Auburn in the mid-80s with a 25-5 mark. USC has never lost a home match to Auburn as well with a perfect 13-0 record. The Gamecocks won 17 straight versus Auburn from 1994 to 2007, but the Tigers have stepped up their level of play since then. The two schools have split the past six meetings beginning in 2008 and Carolina has won the last two. A year ago, the Gamecocks won an emotional 4-3 contest from the Tigers in Auburn, Ala., a day after the passing of longtime coach Arlo Elkins, who had stepped aside as head coach just one month before.
After Auburn and Alabama, the Gamecocks will hit the road the following weekend to face No. 51 Arkansas on March 29 and No. 54 LSU on March 31.