The Daily Gamecock

Tennis falls 4-3 to Ole Miss

	<p>Freshman Ximena Siles Luna won her match at No. 5 singles against Ole Miss.</p>
Freshman Ximena Siles Luna won her match at No. 5 singles against Ole Miss.

Gamecocks eliminated from SEC Tournament in 2nd round

The USC women’s tennis team got out to a strong start in its first match of the SEC tournament, winning the doubles point to take an early lead.

But eighth-seed South Carolina couldn’t keep the advantage, falling 4-3 to 39th-ranked Ole Miss in the second round.

“I think we were trying to find our footing going into the SEC tournament, trying to get back on firm ground,” coach Kevin Epley said. “Unfortunately, I feel like … we [came] up a little short.”

South Carolina defeated Ole Miss 4-0 on April 7. But Thursday, USC’s top four singles players could not come up with wins.

Sophomore Elixane Lechemia was the first to fall, losing 6-4, 6-0 in the No. 3 singles position. Freshman Ximena Siles Luna and senior Josefin Andersson won their matches at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, respectively, to give the Gamecocks a lead, before Ole Miss won the final three matches.

The second-ranked Florida Gators ultimately took the SEC crown.

The Gamecocks will now turn their attention to the NCAA Championships. South Carolina is looking to attend its 19th consecutive NCAA tournament. The national competition stretches from May 10 to May 27.

After the loss to Ole Miss, Epley sent a message to his team that they all needed to come together.

“We just need to be playing as a team, for each other and competing as hard as we can on every point,” he said. “There’s just no leeway for us in terms of not giving 100-percent effort and not having the appropriate attitude.”

South Carolina found success at times throughout the season, beating then-No. 18 Auburn. When the Gamecocks defeated Ole Miss in the regular season, they capped off a four-game win-streak.

However, Epley said he feels that success might have led to sense of complacency.

Entering the SEC Championship, the Gamecocks found themselves on a two-game skid, falling at Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Epley said that “being knocked (off) our perch” was a good wake-up call to the team to exert more effort and “compete across in the board in every single match.”

He explained the season has had emotional highs and lows for his team. Epley noted the team’s roadblocks were often mental and emotional.

“Some of those things that were haunting us early in the season … we got over and sort of came together as a team,” he said. As the Gamecocks encountered more success, however, “that stuff started to creep in a little bit again.”

“And once it gets a hold of you a little, it can take you down, and then you lose your confidence,” he said. “We’re just not a team that can win big matches like that without everybody being on the same page.”

Epley specifically mentioned the need to address the team’s overall attitude. He believes maintaining a positive attitude is the key to consistent success.

“The commitment has to be across the board to outwork and have a better attitude than the people across the net,” he said.

Epley believes his team has shown its ability to work together with a positive attitude this season. He said the team would seek to cultivate that work ethic as it prepares for the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve got to right the ship pretty quickly if we expect to do anything at the NCAA tournament,” Epley said.


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