The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock tennis teams ready for postseason

Men to face Alabama, Women play Ole Miss in SEC tournament

South Carolina’s men’s and women’s tennis teams concluded their regular season play this past weekend, and both qualified for first-round byes in the SEC tournament, which begins later this week.

Both teams finished the regular season with winning records and were just under .500 in SEC play. The men’s team (14-12, 5-7 SEC) won two of its final three matches, good enough to earn them the tournament’s No. 7 seed.

That pits the team against No. 10-seed Alabama, which comes into the tournament having lost three SEC matches in a row. In the regular season matchup against the Crimson Tide, South Carolina won 4-3.

“Alabama is dangerous,” men’s head coach Josh Goffi said. “They compete hard, about as hard as any other team out there. They’re a young team, and they have nothing to lose.”

With a victory, South Carolina would move on to face No. 2-seed Texas A&M on Friday.

“The level of tennis is always going to change,” Goffi said. “It can go up and down; it doesn’t really matter. But the way you compete and stick to matches has to be the same.”

The Gamecock women’s tennis team’s (15-9, 6-7 SEC) season has been up and down, including a six-game losing streak followed immediately by a five-game winning streak. The team ended its regular season with a 4-2 loss to Vanderbilt.

“I don’t have any doubt that we can; it’s whether we do,” women’s head coach Kevin Epley said when asked about his team’s ability to rebound from last weekend’s loss. “If we stay in the process, adjust and commit to some things moving forward and to the next match, we will have a chance against a top team.”

The women’s team will open the tournament against No. 9 seed Ole Miss, who the Gamecocks defeated 4-2 in their only regular-season meeting earlier this year. The winner will advance to face No. 1 seed Alabama on Friday.

The regular season gives coaches a chance to address the strengths and weaknesses of their team, hoping to have the team firing on all cylinders by the time the postseason begins. Both Goffi and Epley believe they have done that and look to translate the regular-season lessons into postseason success.

As individuals, every guy has played to their best ability but not on the same day, and that’s our issue,” Goffi said. “We need to be able to compete as a team and bring it all on the same day.”

For the women’s team, Epley believes postseason success hinges primarily on the team’s ability to maintain mental toughness throughout an entire match.

“Mentally, we still have some work,” Epley said. “We can’t check out — not for a second. Sometimes checking out for that one minute can be the whole match.”

The men’s team, which includes two seniors and four juniors, knows the importance of experience in the postseason. Goffi spoke highly of the senior leadership provided by Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov and recognized the impact that it has on the rest of the team.

“They have done a great job,” Goffi said. “(Senior leadership) definitely instills confidence into our guys. We’ve been here before and we’re excited to see what we can do in this tournament and, more importantly, to see what we can do in NCAAs.”

Each team starts its quest for a title in the single-elimination tournament beginning Thursday afternoon. Each team will play one match per day until the field is narrowed to two teams, who will vie for the title Sunday.


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