The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina men's tennis team defeats rival Clemson with impressive singles play

<p>Junior Casey Hoole backhands the ball during South Carolina’s match against Clemson at the Carolina Indoor Tennis Center on Jan. 27, 2024. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers 4-2 in the rivalry matchup.</p>
Junior Casey Hoole backhands the ball during South Carolina’s match against Clemson at the Carolina Indoor Tennis Center on Jan. 27, 2024. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers 4-2 in the rivalry matchup.

The No. 2 South Carolina men's tennis team earned a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Palmetto State rival Clemson in a match that saw freshman Jelani Sarr pick up a high-pressure clinch for the Gamecocks.

After struggling in doubles play to start the match, South Carolina recovered in its singles matches to continue its unbeaten start to the season.


The Gamecocks came into this game having beat the then-No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers 4-3 in comeback fashion. South Carolina trailed 3-1 early but rallied back with freshman Sean Daryabeigi delivering a 7-5 clinch to earn the Gamecocks the victory.

The Gamecocks got off to another slow start in its match against Clemson during doubles play. Clemson was in complete control and secured the first point of the match with a 2-0 victory as South Carolina struggled without senior Connor Thompson, a two-time doubles All-American.

"We've got Connor Thompson, which is arguably the best doubles player in the country, sitting on our bench, and that is hurting our doubles lineup and our combinations and so on," head coach Josh Goffi said. "We'll do our best, but our guys need to get better and trust the basics and trust what we do and come out with more of a presence."

Singles play was a completely different story for the Gamecocks, though. Senior Toby Samuel swiftly defeated senior Ryuhei Azuma 6-3, 6-1, and sophomore Lucas Andrade da Silva beat redshirt junior Matt Pitts 6-1, 6-1 to pick up the Gamecocks' first 2 points of the match, putting the team up 2-1 overall.

Senior Carter Morgan shortly followed Samuel and da Silva with a hard-fought, two-set victory over senior Spencer Whitaker. Morgan's victory put the Gamecocks in the driver's seat, as the team picked up its 3rd point, needing only 1 more point to earn the win.

"We've got a few guys banged up, but we've got the guys that are stepping into the lineup — they're really stepping up and owning those positions," Goffi said. "(I'm) really proud of Carter Morgan coming in clutch down there at the sixth spot today. Lucas coming in clutch, just going to work, and getting off the court quickly and so on. And obviously, we were led, at a very high level by Toby Samuel, which has been of our leaders for the last couple years."

Junior Casey Hoole lost to freshman Wissam Adberrahman 6-4, 7-5 to cut the Gamecocks' lead  to 3-2, leaving the match in the hands of Sarr and Daryabeigi.

Daryabeigi was in control early against freshman Stewart Aronson after winning the first set 6-2, but Aronson fought back and won the second set 7-6. Early in the third set, Daryabeigi picked up an injury that rendered his movement and ended his chances of winning, leaving Sarr as the Gamecocks' last chance at victory.

Sarr took the first set against freshman Marko Mesarovic 7-5, and Mesarovic took the second set 6-4. Sarr took control of the third and final set, quickly jumping out to an early lead that would not be overcome. Sarr eventually won the third set 6-2 and picked up the crucial fourth point that earned the victory for South Carolina, marking the second time in as many matches that a freshman clinched a win in a high-pressure situation.

"We look for those opportunities. We're not worried when they're in those situations. So win or lose, it's okay," Goffi said. "We want them in those situations, and we've been fortunate enough to come through both times."

The victory improves the Gamecocks' record to 2-0 on the young season. South Carolina will stay at home and play against either Louisville or LSU on Sunday to wrap up the ITA Kickoff Weekend


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