The No. 2 South Carolina men’s tennis team was handed its first loss of the season by NC State on Friday, losing 4-3.
The Gamecocks entered the match having won just one of three possible doubles points this season. The team's only win came in its most recent game against LSU, where the Gamecocks were able to implement senior Connor Thomson, a two-time doubles All-American, into the lineup.
Doubles play continued to let the Gamecocks down despite having Thomson return to the lineup, though.
Junior Casey Hoole and senior James Story defeated the No. 13 duo of junior Joseph Wayand and sophomore Martin Borisiouk 6-4, but it wasn't enough for South Carolina to pull ahead. The Gamecocks lost the other two courts 6-1 and 6-4, giving the Wolfpack the first point of the match.
"The doubles point was soft," head coach Josh Goffi said. "Guys were not ready, you know that's something that's been happening, sort of repeating. We've been putting in new teams and trying to get them organized, but yeah, the double's point really set the tone today."
In singles, freshman Sean Daryabeigi earned the Gamecocks' first point when he swiftly defeated No. 52 Wayand 6-1, 6-3, marking the highest-ranked win of his career.
"The goal for him is to be efficient — get on and get off the court if you can," Goffi said. "Since he's had that learning moment, he's done a really good job, so it's been great to see him put that one in his toolshed and gain some maturity from it."
Senior Toby Samuel was the next Gamecock to pick up a point, but it did not come easy.
Samuel dropped his first set to No. 120 senior Robin Catry 6-2, but he quickly flipped the script, winning the second set 6-1. In the third set, Samuel battled back to win 6-4 and take the match.
"Just encouraging him," Goffi said. "To stick in there, because he wasn't playing well, wasn't competing at a very high level either. He was hitting a lot of big shots, but he was dancing around the fight, as we say.”
The Gamecocks' lead did not last long though, as senior Carter Morgan was defeated 7-6, 6-1 in straight sets by Borisiouk.
No. 92 Hoole restored the Gamecocks' lead with a hard-fought 7-6, 6-4 victory over junior Frons van Sambeek.
But the Wolfpack responded again, as sophomore Lucas Andrade da Silva could not stop the comeback effort of junior Braden Shick. Shick lost the first set 6-3 but quickly fought back, winning the next two sets 6-2 and 6-4.
This tied the match up at 3-3, with the final score to be decided by freshman Jelani Sarr and senior Luca Staeheli.
Sarr won the first set 7-5, but Staeheli rallied back, winning the second set 7-6 to give the Wolfpack the momentum. Sarr ultimately could not pull ahead and lost the third and final set 6-1.
Coach Goffi said he looks to use this loss as an educational experience for the Gamecocks.
"We're going to use this entire match as a massive learning lesson," Goffi said. "(We're) very, very happy that it's early in the season and we got experts, so we'll get better from it."
South Carolina will look to get back in the win column when it hosts the Wake Forest Demon Deacons next Thursday, Feb. 8, at 3 p.m.