The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina women's tennis takes down ranked Mississippi State at home

Freshman Sarah Hamner serves during a singles match against Clemson on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.
Freshman Sarah Hamner serves during a singles match against Clemson on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

The No. 42 South Carolina Women's Tennis team beat No. 52 Mississippi State 4-3 at home on Friday. 

The Gamecocks started strong, winning two doubles matches to secure the first point on the board for either team. South Carolina never lost the lead in any of the three matches. 

Freshmen duo Gracie Mulville and Misa Malkin quickly took their match 6-1 on court five and a 6-3 win from junior duo Ayana Akli and Ana Cruz won the point for the Gamecocks.

Despite a big win in the doubles portion of the match, the six singles matches got off to a slow start for South Carolina. 

Akli quickly jumped to a 5-0 lead over No. 123 Tamara Racine of Mississippi State. Racine was able to take a couple of games back, Akli ultimately won the set 6-3. She carried this momentum into her second set, where she won with the same score, putting the second point on the board for South Carolina. 

Akli was the only Gamecock to have a quick start as the other five courts had to fight their way back from early Bulldog leads.

Malkin and No. 2 freshman Sarah Hamner had to work from early 0-3 deficits on their respective courts in the first set.

Malkin dug her way back to push to a tiebreak at six all, where she was able to win, 7-5, to take the set. Like Akli, she was also able to carry the positive momentum into her second set, which she won in dominating 6-1 fashion, to put the Gamecocks up 3-0. 

With four courts still playing, Mississippi State still had the opportunity to take the match, especially after a win from Marta Falceto over Mulville in straight sets on court six to bring the overall score to 3-1. 

However, after dropping the first set 6-3 against No. 95 Emma Antonaki, Hamner battled her way through the second set, winning 6-4, to force a deciding third set. This third set was tight but Hamner was able to clinch the match officially with a 6-4 win. 

"I'm a competitor, so I love to fight. I mean, those are the moments I live for," Hamner said after the match. "So after I dropped the first set, I was going to fight back no matter what." 

Despite clinching the match, the Gamecocks finished playing out its last two matches as junior No. 86 Elise Mills and Davies each forced a third set against their opponents.

Davies won her first set 6-3, but lost 6-0 in the second to set to battle through a third, which she ultimately lost in the tiebreak. 

Mills won her first set in the tiebreak but dropped the second set 1-6. In the third set, she led 4-2 with a chance to finish it out, but was unable to win another game, losing the set 4-6. 

"It always feels good to get a win in the SEC," head coach Kevin Epley said. "No matter what the rankings are, everybody plays tough." 

The Gamecocks will look to carry the momentum from the win into Sunday afternoon when they host No. 44 Ole Miss at 12 noon at the Carolina Tennis Center.