Gamecocks Advance to NCAA Round of 16
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 13 South Carolina men’s tennis advanced to the NCAA Championships Round of 16 with a 4-0 win over No. 24 NC State Saturday afternoon at Carolina Tennis Center. Eight of the nine doubles and singles matches were hotly contested with the Gamecocks delivering in the big moments to reach the round of 16 for the first time since 2005.
“From start to finish, moment switches were left and right on every singles court,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “It was a little one-sided in one singles match - Toby [Samuel] from start to finish was the man. Starting from doubles, we were up a break here, when down a break there, were even on the other one. Everything was just tightly contested, and that’s a testament to NC State’s grit and their fight as well. Our guys stuck through the whole day. ... It comes down to how you’re working in between points and the toughness and resilience you can bring to stick to points and stick to the match. Our guys did that today at a very high level. It didn’t feel good for them in a lot of spots ... but we played the game unbelievable today, and we deserve this win.”
Service breaks abounded on all three courts early in doubles with NC State drawing first blood with a 6-3 win at the No. 1 position. In the No. 2 match, Jake Beasley and Toby Samuel were serving for the match at 5-3 when NC State’s pair broke back to level the match. Serving at 5-5, the Gamecocks held at love then forced the Wolfpack to deuce. On match point. Samuel blistered a forehand return for the 7-5 win, sending all eyes to the No. 3 match.
That match featured four breaks in the first eight games for a 4-4 tie. The Gamecocks tandem of Raphael Lambling and Phillip Jordan held to go up 5-4, and, like the No. 2 match, forced the Wolfpack to deuce in the next game. With Lambling returning serve, his first forehand put the Wolfpack server on his heels and the second finished off the 6-4 victory to deliver a 1-0 team lead for South Carolina.
In singles, the Gamecocks would eventually win four first sets, but two of those were tough to come by. Only No. 67 Samuel had a routine afternoon, blasting past Tadas Babelis in the No. 3 match 6-0, 6-3 to double the Gameocks’ lead early.
At the top of the lineup No. 2 Daniel Rodrigues handled No. 25 Alexis Galarneau in the first set 6-2, before facing a tougher battle in the second set, which featured five service breaks, including four straight. After dropping his serve to go to 4-4, Rodrigues pressured Galarneau in the next game, and the Wolfpack fifth-year senior double-faulted to fall behind yet again at 5-4. Serving for the match, Rodrigues hammered a cross-court forehand the Galarneau could not handle to seal the 6-2, 6-4 victory and give the Gamecocks 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack picked up first sets on Courts 2 and 5 with Thomas Brown turning his early break into a 6-4 first-set win at No. 6. In the heat of most second sets, No. 54 Lambling outlasted Yannai Barkai 7-6 (4) in the first set of the No. 4 match, and the Gamecocks won the second sets on both Courts 2 and 5 to level those matches.
But, the Gamecocks needed to look no further than their most veteran player, Brown, who made it worthwhile to miss his graduation ceremony to deliver what would be the deciding point for his team. Like the first set, he opened the second with a break and then held on to it for the rest of the match, clinching the 6-4, 6-4 victory with a service winner. South Carolina advances to the Round of 16, in which it will face the winner of Sunday’s match between fourth-seeded Texas and Northwestern on Mon., May 17, at 4 p.m. at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
For all the latest South Carolina men’s tennis information, continue to follow GamecocksOnline.com or the team on social media (@GamecockMTennis).
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