The Daily Gamecock

Men's tennis defeats LSU over weekend

	<p>Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro (pictured) was able to cheer on sophomore teammate Kyle Koch during a break in his match.</p>
Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro (pictured) was able to cheer on sophomore teammate Kyle Koch during a break in his match.

USC secures most conference wins in season since 2006

The two far right courts held most of the drama when USC hosted LSU at the Carolina Tennis Center Sunday.

Sophomore Kyle Koch was locked in a tiebreaker to decide the second set of his singles match. Next to him, sophomore Thiago Pinheiro’s match was suspended while his opponent argued with the referee.

Koch’s hard-fought win sealed USC’s 4-1 victory, the team’s fourth in a row, and gave the Gamecocks (15-7, 5-3 SEC) the most conference wins they have recorded since 2006.
“The next goal is to focus on the next match and try to stretch the run to five,” Koch said. “Can’t really get complacent with it. Can’t be too happy with it. We can celebrate tonight, but then we have to get right back on the training. Can’t take it for granted.”

Three Gamecock players recorded quick two-set victories in singles to give South Carolina a 3-1 lead. In the No. 3 singles match, Pinheiro lost his first set in a tiebreaker but dominated the second set against LSU’s Olivier Borsos. In the third, Borsos complained to the official that the ball being used was too soft.

Rules dictate that if a ball pops in the middle of a point, it must be replayed. But if a ball is soft, the score stands and the ball is replaced prior to the next play. Goffi said Borsos was correct in claiming the ball was too soft, but his request for a replay was against regulations.

As Pinheiro waited for the outcome of the debate, his support helped Koch successfully finish his match. Koch said playing next to his teammate took pressure off him because he knew that even if he lost, Pinheiro could still clinch the win for USC.

“They’re two of our most successful and confident points that we have right now,” Goffi said. “They feed off each other very well. It’s a good situation to keep them next to each other. Thiago’s a good emotional leader for us, and he understands that now. He’s bringing good energy and supporting Kyle really well.”

The Gamecocks started the afternoon losing two of three doubles matches. All three came down to the final game, with a tiebreaker deciding the result of the No. 1 spot.

Goffi said South Carolina did not play poorly in doubles, but the teams did not execute well in the first several games. He added that all three matches were close because “LSU didn’t do a very good job of closing the door,” but fighting back gave USC life going into the singles matches.

In South Carolina’s 5-1 win over Arkansas Friday, the Gamecocks also lost the doubles point before clinching the match with dominant singles play. Goffi said the comebacks have built the team’s confidence.

“We should be a little looser in doubles,” Goffi said. “It’s OK to go out there and miss.”
Koch, who is undefeated in singles since conference play began, won his first set against the Tigers’ Tam Trinh, but the players battled to a 6-6 tie in the second set to force the tiebreaker. Supporters shouted out nicknames including Cookie and Cookie Monster in support of the sophomore as he outlasted Trinh 8-6 for the win.

“You’ll hear them all,” Koch said. “I have a lot of nicknames. But I love when friends and family come out. The support is awesome. It’s an unbelievable atmosphere to be able to clinch against LSU in front of everybody.”

Goffi said the performance was not one of Koch’s best because he was not feeling well prior to the match. He called the win a “milestone” for the sophomore.

“This is a very memorable win for him because this is one of the first times he’s overcome a lot of adversity,” Goffi said. “That’s a big deal for him.”