Three Gamecock players selected to all-conference second team
When Thiago Pinheiro went to last year’s Gamecock Gala and watched teammate Andrew Adams win the MVP award for the men’s tennis team, he set a goal to be this year’s most valuable player.
Pinheiro has always told his coaches he does not care about individual awards outside of USC, but he has been honored by both the university and the conference for his outstanding sophomore season.
“All I wanted was to be recognized for what I do here,” Pinheiro said. “I just love it so much. I wanted to feel important for the school.”
The sophomore was named this year’s MVP after logging a 15-4 record in dual matches this season. In doubles, Pinheiro and Adams were undefeated in conference play.
The two players, along with junior Tsvetan Mihov were named to the second team All-SEC last week, and Josh Goffi was named the conference’s Coach of the Year.
Goffi said he felt like he was “in a different world” when he found out about the award.
“I was speechless at first. The respect that I have for the coaches in this conference is immense,” Goffi said. “They are the very best at what they do. It’s an honor to be a coach in this conference, have the ability to compete against them, let alone to get an award that is voted on by those guys.”
In his third season at South Carolina, Goffi led the team to a 7-5 SEC record. The Gamecocks’ 33 wins in the past two seasons are the most since 2005–06.
The coach was sorry to see sophomore Kyle Koch go unrecognized by the conference, but he said it’s rare for a player in the bottom half of a team’s singles lineup to be named All-SEC. He said the recognition earned by Mihov, Pinheiro and Adams will serve as a powerful motivation to their teammates.
“There will be a realization at some point in the other guys’ careers where they go, ‘Wait a minute, I’m just as good as those other guys, if not better, in practice, so why can’t I do that on the court?’” Goffi said. “It’s a realization that sometimes gets guys over the hump.”
USC will look to add to its win total when the NCAA Tournament begins May 10. The brackets will be announced Tuesday afternoon. Goffi said Oklahoma and Baylor are two likely destinations for his team, but there is an outside chance South Carolina will be a host site.
The Gamecocks have won 14 of their 16 home matches this season.
“There’s a little anxiety there,” Goffi said. “We’re hoping. It would be a dream come true for this team to have a host site.”
The long break between USC’s last match, a loss to Florida at the SEC Tournament April 19, works to the players’ advantage because it has allowed each individual to go back to the drawing board and change certain elements of his game. Goffi said the biggest emphasis for the team has been improving footwork.
Pinheiro said although he is not working on anything specific, he is focused on maintaining and improving his level of play as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
“Now that I got MVP, I have to create new goals for me,” Pinheiro said.