OXFORD, Miss. -- The No. 28 and sixth-seeded South Carolina women’s tennis team picked up a 5-0 win against No. 11-seeded Kentucky in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday in Oxford, Miss. South Carolina improved to 15-7 on the season, while the Wildcats dropped to 9-14. The Gamecocks will now face third-seeded and No. 7-ranked Georgia on Friday in the quarterfinals at 9 a.m. CT.
“I thought Kentucky played really well,” interim head coach Katarina Petrovic said. “They had a lot of heart today, but we were the better team. Georgia is one of the top 10 teams in the country, so it’s going to be really tough. We’ll go over everything on them this afternoon and hopefully be ready tomorrow.”
The Gamecocks earned wins on courts one and three in doubles to take a 1-0 lead heading to singles play. At three, Josefin Andersson and Katerina Popova jumped on Stephanie Fox and Misha Testerman early for a 3-0 advantage. The Wildcats, though, took three of the next four games to cut the deficit to 4-3. Popova and Andersson then regained control of the match, pushing the lead to 7-3 before Popova served out the contest for an 8-4 triumph. Andersson and Popova improved to 16-8 on the season with the victory and 10-4 in dual matches.
At No. 1 doubles, Jaklin Alawi and Anya Morgina won the first two games quickly versus Caitlin McGraw and Jessica Stiles, but the Wildcats countered by winning the next two. The Gamecocks eventually pulled ahead 7-4 and had match point at 40-30 with Stojic serving, but McGraw and Stiles fought back to win the game and then held serve to make it 7-6 for Carolina. Alawi earned a 40-0 lead on her serve in the next game, but the Wildcats won three straight points for deuce. The Gamecocks got the first advantage, but UK fought off Carolina’s fifth match point to continue the match. Alawi and Stojic, though, got the ad again and then finished off the Wildcat duo with an 8-6 victory to improve to 7-1 this spring at the No. 1 position.
On court two, the Wildcats’ Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Khristina Blajkevitch took a 3-0 lead against Anya Morgina and Dominika Kanakova. The Gamecocks fought back to make it 5-3 for Kentucky and the match was suspended with the Wildcats leading 6-3 when Stojic and Alawi clinched the point.
“I thought we played really well in doubles,” Petrovic said. “I thought Kentucky played much better this match than the regular season. We did have a big lead at No. 1 doubles, but we managed to close it. They have a ranked team, ranked 82, so it was a really good win for our No. 1 team. I was really pleased with the effort and hopefully we can do the same things in doubles tomorrow.”
In singles, Carolina dominated from the outset, taking the first set on all six courts with the closest score being 6-3 at No. 3 singles. Morgina finished first with a 6-1, 6-4 victory at the No. 1 spot against Stiles. Morgina fell behind 4-2 in the second set before fighting her way back to claim four consecutive games. The win was Morgina’s 20th of the year and she improved to 14-6 at No. 1 singles.
Adriana Pereira put the Gamecocks within one point of winning the match after picking up a 6-1, 6-2 decision against Testerman on court six. Pereira never trailed in the match and upped her singles record to 18-10 with the win. She also moved above .500 in dual matches, improving to 10-9.
Popova and Stojic nearly finished at the exact same time. Popova ended up edging Stojic by about two seconds to earn the clinching match for the Gamecocks, defeating McGraw 6-2, 6-3 at No. 5 singles. Popova improved to 21-11 with the win and took over as the team leader in dual match victories with a 15-6 mark. Stojic moved to 13-4 on the season and 6-1 in duals with her 6-1, 6-3 decision over Fox at No. 4 singles.
Alawi was in a third set with Blajkevitch at No. 2 singles when play was suspended. Alawi won the first set 6-0, lost the second 6-4 and trailed 1-0 in the third with the match on serve. On court three, Kanakova won the first set 6-3 against Morin-Kougoucheff and trailed 4-1 in the second.
1. #39 Anya Morgina, USC, def. Jessica Stiles, UK, 6-1, 6-4
2. #89 Jaklin Alawi, USC, vs. Khristina Blajkevitch, UK, 6-0, 4-6, 0-1 susp.
3. Dominika Kanakova, USC, vs. Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff, UK, 6-3, 1-4 susp.
4. #85 Dijana Stojic, USC, def. Stephanie Fox, UK, 6-1, 6-3
5. Katerina Popova, USC, def. Caitlin McGraw, UK, 6-2, 6-3
6. Adriana Pereira, USC, def. Misha Testerman, UK, 6-1, 6-2
Order of Finish: 1, 6, 5, 4
1. #37 Alawi/Stojic, USC, def. #82 McGraw/Stiles, UK, 8-6
2. Kanakova/Morgina, USC, vs. Blajkevitch/Morin-Kougoucheff, UK, 3-6 susp.
3. Josefin Andersson/Popova, USC, def. Fox/Testerman, UK, 8-4
Order of Finish: 3, 1