USC Men’s Tennis Drops 4-3 Decision to No. 13 Texas A&M
By: USC SID
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — No. 11-seed South Carolina gave third-seeded Texas A&M all it could handle in a tough 4-3 loss in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals today at Carolina Tennis Center. With the match tied 3-3 and the teams’ top players on serve in the third set, the stakes could not have been higher for the 14-14 Gamecocks when a nearly three-hour weather delay interrupted the match between No. 58 Gabriel Friedrich and No. 18 Arthur Rinderknech at 5-6 and 15-30 with the Gamecocks’ redshirt-sophomore serving. Resumed indoors, Friedrich fought one two match point before Rinderknech delivered closed out the victory for the 13th-ranked Aggies.
The match was close from the opening serve of doubles with the Aggies striking first with a 6-4 win at No. 3 doubles with the other two matches on serve. In the No. 2 match, Alex Fennell sealed a key hold with a big serve at deuce to set up his partner Sam Swank for an easy put-away volley to get to 5-4. Their teammates at No. 1 doubles were similarly in a tough hold at 5-5, holding off a Texas A&M rally in the game that Harrison O’Keefe ended with a huge service winner to get to 6-5. Fennell and Swank jumped out to a 40-15 lead on the Aggies’ serve and took the break and the match in a good return from Fennell on match point. With the double split, the No. 1 match went to a tiebreak, and Friedrich and O’Keefe dominated for a 7-6 (1) victory that gave the Gamecocks the early 1-0 lead in the match.
The Aggies took an early lead in singles, winning four of the six first sets as only O’Keefe and Andrew Schafer picked up first-set wins in the Nos. 2 and 3 matches, respectively. The Gamecocks pushed back, though, forcing third sets in three of those four matches.
Schafer finished his straight-set win at No. 3, 6-1, 7-5 over Jordi Arconada to put the Gamecocks up 2-0, and with South Carolina rallying on three other courts, the match grew tighter by the minute. The Gamecocks seemed to seize momentum when four matches went to break point in rapid succession and South Carolina won three of those.
The Aggies got on the board when Jackson Withrow held off Wood Benton at No. 6 to claim at 7-5, 6-3 victory, and Harrison Adams leveled the team scoring at 2-2 with a comeback win over Thomas Mayronne in the No. 5 match – 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
On Court 4, Fennell was riding an early break in his fourth set against AJ Catanzariti, and O’Keefe had broken to get back on serve in his third set against Shane Vinsant in the No. 2 match. Both were riding the momentum of Friedrich’s emotional tiebreak win in the second set at the top of the lineup.
O’Keefe, who fought off two match points at 4-5 with great ground strokes, and Vinsant went to a tiebreak, during which Fennell closed out his 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory to put South Carolina back on top a 3-2. The third-set tiebreak went back and forth early until Vinsant took a 4-3 lead on O’Keefe’s serve. The Gamecocks’ redshirt sophomore got it back two points later on a beautiful passing shot, then leveled the breaker at 5-5 with a service winner. Vinsant took the next point on O’Keefe’s serve and claimed the win when an O’Keefe forehand sailed just wide.
Knotted at 3-3, the match came down to the teams’ two top players with the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament hopes hanging in the balance. A match that saw just one service break through its first 30 games tilted toward the Gamecocks as Friedrich, who had held his last service game despite facing three break points, used great baseline play to turn a 30-Love deficit into deuce and a break for a 5-4 lead. The Aggies’ Frenchman answered, though, pouncing on Friedrich’s serve early then holding for a 6-5 lead. He continued the momentum, going up 15-30 on Friedrich’s next service game when the rain came, followed by a lightning warning and another long rain shower that eventually sent the match to the indoor courts.
Rinderknech took the first point after a long rally with a cross-court backhand that set up a pair of match points. Friedrich battled through the first, forcing Rinderknech to net a forehand, but saw a solid return of his next serve yield a forehand that sailed just beyond the baseline.
With the loss, the Gamecocks finish the season at 14-15, falling one match shy of the record needed to be eligible for selection to the NCAA Tournament.
HEAD COACH JOSH GOFFI
“That’s all we could ask for. Going into today, it was all about getting ourselves in position to win, which is first of all not backing down to Texas A&M, which we haven’t beaten. The belief has been there. Our team arrived late in the season, and we’ve been working toward that all year. As far as I’m concerned, today came out as an L on paper, but it was an absolute win for us because our team has an identity. They finally believe that they are one of the top teams. They’re a young squad, and we’re going to continue to move forward here.”
“Our team wanted it. Our back was against the wall. That was our season, right there – if we win, we get into NCAAs; if we lose, we don’t get into NCAAs. There’s a lot of people that when their backs are against they wall, they come out and do some great things. Our boys showed up and put themselves into position today. We were two points away from winning the whole match and getting what we wanted. We missed a few opportunities, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Our guys – I couldn’t be more proud of them. I know it’s cliché and everybody says that, but it’s been a long season and they’ve done everything we’ve asked and they arrived to a great level and became a great team today.”
#13 Texas A&M – 4, #50 South Carolina – 3
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1*)
- #67 O’Keefe/Friedrich (SC) d. Bashki/Withrow (TAM) 7-6 (1)
- Fennell/Swank (SC) d. Adams/Vinsant (TAM) 6-4
- Lunkin/Rinderknech (TAM) d. Dennis/Schafer (SC) 6-4
Singles (Order of Finish: 3, 6, 5, 4, 2, 1*)
- #18 Arthur Rinderknech (TAM) d. #58 Gabriel Friedrich (SC) 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5
- #53 Shane Vinsant (TAM) d. Harrison O’Keefe (SC) 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5)
- Andrew Schafer (SC) d. Jordi Arconada (TAM) 6-1, 7-5
- Alex Fennell (SC) d. AJ Catanzariti (TAM) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
- Harrison Adams (TAM) d. Thomas Mayronne (SC) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
- Jackson Withrow (TAM) d. Wood Benton (SC) 7-5, 6-3