The Daily Gamecock

Jaklin Alawi clinches win on Senior Day

Women’s tennis captures 4th straight victory with 4-0 win

With only a couple of matches remaining before the SEC tournament, South Carolina’s women’s tennis team is picking up steam at a pivotal point in the 2013 campaign. Sunday’s 4-0 win over Ole Miss was South Carolina’s fourth straight victory against conference opponents.

“I feel like we’re positioned well going into our final two matches,” coach Kevin Epley said. “Particularly if we put in another week of work and come out ready to go.”

No. 29 USC has outscored its opponents by a total of 18-6 over that four-game stretch, including two wins over top-50 opponents in Ole Miss and Arkansas.

The Gamecocks jumped out to an early lead Sunday, taking the doubles point behind a dominant 8-1 win from the nation’s No. 50 doubles team in senior Jaklin Alawi and junior Dominika Kanakova.

“I feel like they’re probably one of the best doubles teams in the nation,” Epley said. “And I hope they get a chance to get in the NCAA (tournament) because they could do some serious damage there.”

The doubles win from USC’s No. 1 duo brings the pair’s record on the year to 22-8.The other victory in doubles play come from the team of junior Elixane Lechemia and freshman Ximena Siles Luna, as the duo won 8-6 on the No. 3 court.

Alawi also shined in singles, clinching the victory with a thrilling defeat of Mississippi’s Caroline Rohde-Moe, the 45th-ranked singles player in the country, on the No. 1 court. After claiming the first set, Alawi forced a tiebreaker in the second she would go on to win.

The successful outing was particularly meaningful to Alawi, as Sunday was Senior Day and the final home match of the season for South Carolina.

“[Alawi] just has a sense of urgency realizing she only has a few more matches left as a Gamecock, and she’s really just laying it on the line,” Epley said. “I couldn’t be happier for [Alawi].”

The senior from Bulgaria has struggled at times this season in the No. 1 spot, facing nationally ranked opponents on a weekly basis.

Josefin Andersson and Adriana Pereira were also honored on Senior Day at the Carolina Tennis Center. Andersson trailed on the No. 6 court when the match came to an end while Pereira was inactive on the day.

“It’s great for all of them,” Epley said. “It’s great for us, great for the team that we’re coming together at a critical time, particularly on Senior Day.”

The other singles victories for South Carolina came from Lechemia and Siles Luna on courts 3 and 5, respectively. Both Gamecocks took care of business in straight sets and set Alawi up to clinch the match on court No. 1.

As he has done throughout the season, Epley is emphasizing enthusiasm and steady improvement from his team, and with only a handful of matches before the SEC tournament, the first-year South Carolina head coach feels his Gamecocks have made significant strides.

“The theme that we’ve had the entire year is to get better every single week,” Epley said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but I feel like steadily along the way the team has improved every week. I really feel like they are improving.”