Home crowd not enough to push Gamecocks past Tigers
After some late rallies, the South Carolina women’s tennis team fell to in-state rival Clemson 5-2 Sunday.
Clemson jumped off to a quick start in front of a hostile crowd at the courts, winning the doubles point and winning the first set in each of the singles matches.
The team was shocked to see how many fans were there to support them.
“They froze a little bit and the other team is supposed to freeze, not us,” coach Kevin Epley said. “These are our fans, they are supporting us, and that team handled it and let it brush right off. We were shell-shocked.”
After a rough doubles match, losing two games 8-3 and 8-5, the team looked to rebound in the singles play.
“I was pretty nervous and tight. But we had a great crowd that got me going, I had a lot of family and friends there,” junior Megan Blevins said. “After the first set, I knew I lost it, she didn’t necessarily beat me. (coach) Georgia (Rose) sat me down and said if I didn’t make all those errors it would have been a different story. I stuck with the game plan, made a lot more balls, hit some shots that she was uncomfortable hitting and it went my way.”
The Tigers’ fast start shocked the Gamecocks, but the team slowly began to battle back, winning the second set in three of the six matches.
“I think towards the end of the match, there was a moment even though we didn’t come out the way we wanted in doubles and we got down so fast in singles, that we somehow we found a way to still be in the match after losing all those sets,” Epley said. “And at one point looked like we could potentially could come back. We hung in there.”
After falling behind 4-0 and losing the team match, Blevins, senior Katerina Popova and sophomore Ximena Siles Luna all won their second set and forced a third set tiebreaker.
Both Popova and Blevins won their tiebreaks, 10-6 and 10-7 respectively.
“We had a meeting about not focusing on the past. I’m not usually good at tiebreakers so I was focused on this one,” Blevins said. “I got a good lead off the bat and it helped me a lot. After the second set I was confident going into it, so I stayed energetic, stayed pumped and got it.”
With the two wins in the last three matches of the day, the Gamecocks still fell, at home, 5-2 to their long-time rival. Epley looks to use the loss as a way to rebound and continue to get better.
“We’ve got a lot to focus on,” he said. “We’ve got to focus on our doubles; there was a lot to be desired.”
Blevins sees this team as one that can play well later on this season and looks to move forward after a loss to a team she says she has grown up hating.
“We’ll be fine. We have great girls and we work hard, like every body else, but there’s something special about our team,” Blevins said. “We’re a very deep team. Girls are doing extra all the time and it’s going to pay off.”