The South Carolina men's tennis team put together a strong performance and beat Florida 5-2 in its final match of the regular season.
The performance came on the heels of the Gamecocks' win last Thursday against Texas A&M, which was its first-ever win on the road against the Aggies.
This displayed a turnaround for the team after dropping four of its past seven matches, including last weekend's games against Georgia and Tennessee.
All of South Carolina's past seven opponents have been SEC teams that rank in the top 60 of the ITA rankings, including four that were ranked in the top 20.
The Florida match was on Senior Day, so it would be the last for seniors James Story and Connor Thomson at the Carolina Tennis Center.
"Both of those guys are our captains this year, and they do a lot of work away from the courts for the guys," head coach Josh Goffi said. "A lot of the success happens when nobody’s watching. They’ve been amazing in that regard, and that’s been a couple of their goals in our preseason meetings."
In doubles play, the No. 1 pair of junior Toby Samuel and Thomson was defeated by No. 6 graduate student Axel Nefve and junior Will Grant 6-2. The No. 51 doubles pair of graduate student Jake Beasley and Story beat sophomore Nate Bonetto and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn 6-3 to clinch the doubles point for South Carolina.
In singles play, the Gamecocks claimed a 2-0 lead when No. 8 Samuel beat No. 41 Nefve in straight sets 6-3, 6-0. Samuel handled his match against Nefve with relative ease and has been a strong performer throughout the year, holding the No. 1 spot for South Carolina.
“He’s done extremely well,” Goffi said. “Toby is a heck of a player, and he’s starting to come into his own, and he feels at home on the number one court, playing the best players in the country. He truly believes that he is one of the best players in the country now, and he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Beasley lost to Nirundorn 6-3, 6-2 to cut the lead in half, but it was all South Carolina from that point forward.
No. 17 Thomson beat No. 83 Grant 6-2, 6-3 in an entertaining match that saw a few questionable calls and some “friendly” back-and-forth banter, and No. 102 sophomore Casey Hoole beat Bonetto 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to clinch the victory for the Gamecocks.
The coaches decided to let the match continue, so No. 120 graduate student Raphael Lambling beat senior Lukas Greif 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Story lost to No. 106 freshman Jonah Braswell 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
For its next challenge, the Gamecocks will take on the SEC tournament for men’s tennis on Friday, April 21.
“We’re moving in the right direction right now," Goffi said. "We had some injuries throughout mid-year. Right now we’re getting healthy and everything is moving in the right direction, so as far as right now, we don’t need any adjustments. We just need to keep plowing forward.”