The Daily Gamecock

Men’s tennis falls to Florida

	<p>Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro rallied to win his match’s second and third sets to help the Gamecocks advance to the second round of the <span class="caps">SEC</span> Tournament.</p>
Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro rallied to win his match’s second and third sets to help the Gamecocks advance to the second round of the SEC Tournament.

South Carolina ends tournament run in 2nd round

Ranked 17th in the nation, the South Carolina men’s tennis team’s expectations entering last weekend’s SEC tournament were as high as they have ever been, according to coach Josh Goffi.

South Carolina, the No. 6 seed in the competition, played its first match of the tournament Thursday, earning a victory over the 11th-seeded LSU Tigers. But the Gamecocks’ run came to an end in the second round when they were bounced from the tournament by No. 3 seed Florida.

“I think getting any wins in the tournament is an accomplishment,” Goffi said. “It was great for our guys because they had a bull’s-eye on their back, and I’m proud of them for being able to deal with that pressure.”

USC’s opening-round triumph came in the form of a thrilling, come-from-behind effort fueled by sophomore Thiago Pinheiro’s rally to win the second and third sets after dropping the first to LSU’s Olivier Borsos.

South Carolina’s top two singles players, junior Tsvetan Mihov and sophomore Andrew Adams, both earned victories as well, returning to form after they both suffered losses in USC’s regular-season finale.

Aside from Mihov, the 39th-ranked player in the country, no other Gamecock ranks in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 75, which Goffi said makes the team’s top-20 season that much more impressive.

“It definitely takes a little more effort and a little more focus than other teams to be successful,” Goffi said. “We’re not as talented, per se, at every spot. We definitely compete with the very best, but it just takes a little more out of us.”

South Carolina’s conference tournament run was cut short Friday when the team lost to the Gators in a disappointing 4-0 shutout.

Despite Florida racing out to an early lead, Pinheiro tried to replicate his heroics in the first contest of the tournament, jumping ahead in his match on a first-set tiebreaker victory, only to see the Gators claim the victory before his bout could finish.

Goffi said fatigue was a factor in Friday’s loss, as his Gamecocks were playing their second match against a fresh Florida team that had received a first-round bye. All things considered, the coach was pleased with the individual efforts he saw in the defeat, and his spirits are not dampened looking ahead to the NCAA tournament.

“I think that we competed hard, which is what we’ve been doing all season,” Goffi said. “I think I’m going to use the SEC tournament as an example of what it’s going to take. Everything’s a learning process with this team.”

The trip to the second round of the SEC tournament was USC’s first since 2008, following a season-long trend of exceeding expectations, including the most regular season wins in seven years.

“We set very realistic goals for our team with the outlook that we had initially, with what we came to the table with, with the players that we had,” Goffi said. “Those were very realistic goals, and we definitely surpassed those.”

Some of the benchmarks Goffi established for his team included an overall record above .500 and a top-half regular season finish in the SEC, both of which South Carolina accomplished with an 18-10 overall mark and a tie for the third-best record in the conference at 7-5.

With the regular season and conference tournaments behind them, all the Gamecocks can do at this point is wait for April 30, when the NCAA Tournament bracket will be announced. Goffi said no matter how his team fares in the tournament, the goals he and his players have set for next season will go far beyond what they thought possible this year.

“I think that when you have a season like this, this becomes your standard,” Goffi said. “One thing that we stress is we never go backwards, we never rest on our laurels, we never take anything for granted, and we sure as heck aren’t going to be comfortable with where we’re at.”


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