Gamecocks sweep weekend SEC contests for 1st time since 2006
Last year, a player on the men’s tennis team jokingly asked coach Josh Goffi whether he would cut his hair into a Mohawk if the team swept an SEC weekend series.
After two road wins against No. 35 Auburn and No. 26 Alabama this weekend, the Gamecocks (13-7, 3-3 SEC) could finally claim their prize. The two wins mark the first time since 2006 that USC has swept two conference matches in a weekend.
“It shows the other teams that we’re here to play now,” sophomore Kyle Koch said. “We’re actually a legitimate contender, and playing us isn’t going to be easy anymore.”
Koch remains undefeated in singles during conference play, defeating both opponents he faced in straight sets from the No. 5 singles position. Described as the hardest worker on the team by his coach, the sophomore has shown marked improvement over his 2-7 record in conference play last year.
Goffi said winning consistently is important for Koch’s development, and he has no immediate plans to move him up in the singles lineup, although he may do so if his success continues.
“He needs to beat the people he’s supposed to beat this year, and that will set him up for a great explosion onto the scene next year, which is what he wants more than anything,” Goffi said.
Koch, who also had two doubles victories with senior Harry Menzies as his partner over the weekend, said he’s happy to play wherever he will give the team the best chance to win.
Menzies’ first singles win in conference play came against Auburn Friday. With USC leading 3-2, the senior went into a third set against the Tigers’ Joseph Van Dooren and ultimately came up with the point that clinched South Carolina’s win. Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro delivered the final point in the Gamecocks’ 5-2 victory.
Goffi said Van Dooren was among the top 100 in ITF rankings, placing him among the best junior players in the world and adding significance to Menzies’ accomplishment.
“It just shows that he’s committed to his game,” Goffi said. “He’s gotten a lot better. With that win, he’s starting to get back on track.”
Menzies played a “phenomenal” match against Alabama’s Stuart Kenyon Sunday but ultimately came up short in three sets. His loss was the lone point for the Crimson Tide in USC’s 4-1 win Sunday. Goffi said he was still pleased with Menzies’ effort.
“The fight and the work ethic during a match to get themselves in position to win, that’s all we can ask for,” Goffi said.
USC’s three conference wins this season are the most it has had since 2009 and represent a new high for Goffi, who became the coach in 2010. He said he brought his clippers to every weekend SEC match in the hopes of fulfilling his promise about the Mohawk. After the win against Alabama, assistant coach Matt Lucas and the team’s support staff joined in the celebrations.
In his third year with the program, Goffi said it is rewarding to see the work of previous seasons play off.
“The satisfying thing about this is that this team, on paper, is not great,” Goffi said. “We don’t have superstars on our team at all. We just have a lot of hard workers that believe in the coaching and believe in themselves.”