The Daily Gamecock

Women’s tennis team looks to extend winning streak

Attitude adjustment attributed to success

The USC women’s tennis team is looking for its third straight win today when the Gamecocks host Mississippi State at 5 p.m.

USC went undefeated on the road last weekend in SEC play against LSU and then–No. 54 Arkansas. The No. 29 Gamecocks (11-8, 4-5 SEC) hope to keep their success going against the Bulldogs (7-10, 1-8).

Mississippi State has notched only one victory in SEC play but boasts the No. 56 doubles tandem in Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran. The Gamecocks’ No. 50 doubles pair of senior Jaklin Alawi and junior Dominika Kanakova will take them on.

USC coach Kevin Epley says he has been happy with the improvement in singles play and that the doubles has come together, but he still hopes for more improvement in doubles.

After losing three consecutive team matches in mid-March, the Gamecocks have won three out of their past four to boost their record in conference play.

Epley attributed the recent success to the improvement in the team’s attitude.

“Over the course of the semester, the goal has been to improve, and I think we’ve done that,” Epley said. “More recently, I think they’ve come together as a team. That family component is starting to sink in. They’re fighting for each other and fighting as a team more so than a group of individuals fighting for themselves. I think it’s been a major factor in their willingness to put in a little more effort and a little more will.”

Epley also said the team may not have been as consistent earlier in the season because players were becoming familiar with each other.

“I think it was just getting used to a bunch of new faces and a new philosophy,” Epley said. “But they’ve turned the corner in a few areas. They looked at the scores they had against some of the best teams in the country and realized they could beat them.”

Epley added that the Gamecocks’ mindset has been to come together and take care of a few details in order to win the types of matches they were losing previously.

The head coach also noted the improvement specific players have made over the course of the season. He mentioned the rise in confidence of Kanakova and junior Katerina Popova.

“[Kanakova has] gotten a better footing of what she’s trying to do on the court,” Epley said. “I think she was playing a little not to lose before, and now she’s realizing she’s actually a really good player. I think Katie Popova has settled into her game. She had a little rough spell where her confidence was low, but she’s hitting the ball a bit bigger now and is believing in herself a little more.”

Still, Epley wants to see all of his players hit the ball “bigger” and continue to become more aggressive. He also said aggression is the key to victory against the Bulldogs.

“We have to go out there with the attitude we’ve had the past few matches,” Epley said. “We have to fight hard for every point, we have to be positive and we have to play our game. We’re not going to play scared — we’re going to go out and attack.”

Epley believes his team is in good shape if the players continue to put in the effort at all times and in every match.

“Overall, I think it’s the realization that we can be a very good team if we fight on every single point,” Epley said. “And I think that confidence has taken over with a couple of these wins. I think we’re in a good position moving forward into the rest of the season.”