The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks thankful for home court advantage, hope to get revenge in SEC tournament

The South Carolina women’s tennis team is heating up as it begins to host the SEC tournament at the Carolina Tennis Center.

Shortly into the conference season, the Gamecocks fell into a slump, sitting at 1-3 in SEC play early on.Towards the end of the year, however, the Gamecocks got in a groove and managed to come out with six wins over their last ten matches.

They'll need to continue their momentum to stay competitive against the tournament's stiff competition. The event began on Wednesday, April 15, but the Gamecocks received a first-round bye and will begin tournament play on Thursday, April 16 against Mississippi State. 

According to head coach Kevin Epley,his players were simply becoming tired of getting negative results and decided to do something about it.

With hopes of a potential NCAA tournament bid still around, South Carolina is more focused than ever, and Epley’s team is hoping for a good performance in the upcoming days.

“I believe that we were just fed up with losing. Especially the seniors, they wanted to have another shot at the tournament,” Epley said. “We just got done what needed to be done and now we are focusing on the tournament.”

When the Gamecocks take the court on Thursday, it’ll be against a familiar opponent. South Carolina won its last matchup against Mississippi State 4-3 less than a month ago on March 20 and the Gamecocks are hoping to duplicate that result on Thursday.

Entering the postseason, South Carolina is 6-7 in SEC matches, but the Gamecocks have a home record of 7-2, which should certainly help in the upcoming days.

Each year, a school from the SEC is chosen to host the tournament, and this year is South Carolina’s turn.

Epley is looking forward to the home court advantage. However, the best teams in the conference will be tough to face regardless of the location, he said.

“Playing at home is a big advantage because of the fans. The fans here at South Carolina are amazing,” Epley said. “They need to be because the SEC is a big conference with a lot of talent. Home court advantage can easily vanish because of the talent that is being brought to the tournament.”

The SEC tournament offers the Gamecocks a chance to redeem themselves from bitter losses. One team that the Gamecocks are seeking to play against in the tournament is Georgia.

Although they have to get past Mississippi State in the beginning, the Gamecocks are already hoping for a chance to take the Bulldogs down in the tournament.

A victory against Mississippi State would match South Carolina, the seventh-seeded team in the tournament,up with Georgia, the conference's second-seeded team. 

Georgia came into Columbia and spoiled South Carolina's senior day, ending the Gamecocks' two-match winning streak in the SEC.

It was only the second home loss for the Gamecocks.

Epley knows that South Carolina must take it one match at a time, but he also acknowledges how exciting it would be for his team to have another shot at Georgia.

“Georgia would be a great matchup to play. We lost the last matchup 4-3 and it got a little dirty,” Epley said. “That close loss really fired up the girls for the upcoming tournament. If we get past Mississippi State, they are a team that we are looking forward to playing in the tournament.”

This will be the last SEC tournament for seniors Meghan Blevins, Elixane Lechemia and Alex Martin. Epley said that they have been great additions to the team and that they will be sorely missed.

“They have really showed the leadership that they needed to for this team. Senior day was a big day for them and they shined,” Epley said. “I am proud of what they have accomplished and the leadership they have showed on the team. The younger girls will have big shoes to fill.”


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