Gamecock men’s tennis advances to first SEC semifinal since 1999
GAINESVILLE, Fla.– Sixth-seeded Gamecock men’s tennis (17-8) advanced to the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament for this first time since 1999 after taking down the No. 3 seed, 11th-ranked Texas A&M (20-7), 4-2 in Friday’s quarterfinal round at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
“We’ve been hunting all year for a top-10 win,” said Head Coach Josh Goffi. “This team felt they could do it all year and it was awesome to see the boys come through today.”
Carolina, which fell 5-2 to Texas A&M at home back on Mar. 29, remained perfect (14-0) on the season when winning the doubles point after ranked wins on courts one, two and three brought the Gamecocks their second all-time win in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
Sixth-ranked Paul Jubb and No. 119 Daniel Rodrigues each split but controlled their respective third sets to bring Carolina within a point of clinching. Raphael Lambling, after winning the first set 6-3, came up with the match-clinching point for South Carolina for a second-straight day by winning 7-5 in a second-set breaker.
The win snaps a nine-match losing streak against Texas A&M as the Gamecocks topped the Aggies for the first time since a 5-3 win under former head coach Kent DeMars back in 1991.
Carolina improved to 14-0 when winning the doubles point, winning at No. 2 doubles followed by a clinching 6-4 win from Daniel Rodrigues and Raphael Lambling at No. 1 doubles. The Gamecocks’ No. 2 pair, Yancy Dennis and Paul Jubb, jumped ahead 3-0 to begin their match and brought Carolina back even in the point with a 6-2 win.
Rodrigues and Lambling went down 3-2 but bounced back to win the next two games for a 4-3 lead. The freshman tandem went on to hold serve for a 6-4 win to put Carolina ahead 1-0.
1. Daniel Rodrigues/Raphael Lambling (SC) def. No. 7 Juan Carlos Aguilar/Barnaby Smith (TAMU) 6-4
2. Paul Jubb/Yancy Dennis (SC) def. Valentin Vacherot/Noah Schachter (TAMU) 6-2
3. Hady Habib/Pranav Kumar (TAMU) def. Beau Pelletier/Jake Beasley (SC), 6-3
Order of finish: 3,2,1
It was Texas A&M stealing the early momentum in singles with 6-1 first-set wins on both court seven (No. 1 singles) and court 11 (No. 5 singles). Rodrigues helped bring Carolina back into the match with a 6-3 first-set win at the No. 2 spot.
Jubb bounced back from his slow start with a commanding 6-0 second set to force a third. The Gamecocks’ No. 1 singles player later won three-straight games to finish off his 11th-consecutive singles victory, leveling the match score at 2-2. “Jubb woke up today not feeling 100 percent but battled through it and showed the true champ that he is today,” said Goffi.
Rodrigues, who fell in straight-sets to his Texas A&M’s Hady Habib in their match earlier this season, came back from a second-set letdown with a 6-0 third set win to bring South Carolina within a point of the team win.
Lambling also looked to avenge a regular-season loss playing against fellow frenchman, Valentin Vacherot at No. 3 singles. Lambling won three-straight to take the first set, 6-3, before playing from behind for most of the second. After forcing a second-set tiebreak, Lambling remained aggressive to finish off Vacherot with a 7-5 win in the breaker.
“Our motto is come forward in the big moments. That’s what he did and it worked out,” said Goffi. “It’s a huge learning opportunity for the team today. This team has been searching and they deserve this win because they’ve been working hard.”
1. No. 6 Paul Jubb (SC) def. No. 30 Juan Carlos Aguilar (TAMU) 1-6, 6-0, 6-3
2. No. 119 Daniel Rodrigues (SC) def. No. 74 Hady Habib (TAMU) 6-3, 2-6, 6-0
3. Raphael Lambling (SC) def. No. 58 Valentin Vacherot (TAMU) 6-3, 7-6 (5)
4. Barnaby Smith (TAMU) def. Beau Pelletier (SC) 6-2, 7-5
5. Noah Schachter (TAMU) def. Thomas Brown (SC) 6-1, 7-5
6. Austin Abbrat (TAMU) vs. Yancy Dennis (SC) 7-5, 4-6, unfinished
Order of finish: 5,4,1,2
South Carolina will play just its second all-time SEC Tournament semifinal on Saturday as it takes on second-seeded Mississippi State beginning at 12 p.m. ET.