Men’s tennis takes on Furman, Citadel in first matches of year
Despite having the best preseason ranking in more than seven years, the South Carolina men’s tennis team is out to prove that they can build on their No. 18 finish in last year’s final rankings.
As he gears up for his fourth season at the helm, coach Josh Goffi has tried to prepare his team to handle its newfound success and is looking to show that this South Carolina team is a legitimate contender and that last season was no fluke.
“We’ve prepped our team for the highest preseason ranking in a while, but that ranking was built strictly on last year’s results and momentum and this is a brand new season,” Goffi said, “Therefore we don’t really have a ranking and that’s how we’re approaching it. We’ve got to prove to not only everyone else but also ourselves and that’s something I think we do very well.”
The team’s top individual performer, senior Tsvetan Mihov became only the 11th tennis player in the school history to earn All-America honors by reaching the NCAA round of 16.
The former Oklahoma transfer hopes that in 2014 he can build on his results from last season.
“I want to work to stay at the same level or even higher as last year,” Mihov said, “I maintain the same aggressiveness with all of my opponents and work on the most important part of the game to me, which is the serve.”
Mihov is one of just two seniors on the roster, and with four new freshmen on the team he hopes to provide guidance and leadership to the younger members of the squad.
“We have some new faces on the team which are really good,” Mihov said. “Talented guys and I think giving them guidance is an important thing for them and we’ll see how we all play and hopefully build up some experience throughout the season.”
Mihov enters the season ranked in the top 50 in the individual rankings after a 17-12 finish last season.
Mihov and other players like junior Kyle Koch, who went 9-1 in SEC play last year, have turned in strong individual performances for the Gamecocks but Goffi has made sure to stress the team aspect of the game. He said that it is crucial for each member of the team to come up big to win matches.
South Carolina will get its season underway with a pair of in-state clashes on Sunday when the Gamecocks take on Furman at 10:00 a.m., then break until 4:00 p.m when they match up with the Citadel.
“If each individual reaches their own goal then the team will reach theirs,” Goffi said, “We need all six guys to lock horns with the guy across the net, then at that point we’ve got a very strong team and we can do some fun things. Everybody has to be that x-factor and each guy has to take care of their match and their point, so it doesn’t matter how dominant one guy really is.”