LOS ANGELES - The Aggie senior co-captains of Colin Hoover and Alexis Klegou clinched the doubles point and then Hoover posted the first singles victory as the No. 30-ranked Texas A&M men's tennis team defeated No. 41 South Carolina, 4-0, in the first round of the NCAA Championships being hosted by the University of Southern California at Marks Stadium in Los Angeles. The Aggies, who have made 19 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Championships, will advance to face the three-time defending NCAA champions, current top-ranked and host USC at 2 p.m. central on Sunday. USC defeated Fairfield, 4-0, on Saturday.
"I am very proud of the guys because they came out with good intensity and stayed focused on this match and did not look ahead," Aggie head coach Steve Denton said. "We have given ourselves a chance and stranger things have happened. We have to come out and play with no fear, play relaxed and make them beat us. Our guys know this is the NCAA Championships so the intensity level will be higher. We have played a tough schedule throughout the year to prepare us to be battle tested when it comes to the NCAA's. I also think it will help both teams that we faced each other in the regular season, we are a little more familiar with each lineup."
With the win, A&M improves to 14-14 on the season and the Gamecocks of South Carolina finish the 2012 season with a 15-12 mark. Ever since the NCAA expanded the tennis championships to 64 teams in 1999, Texas A&M has never lost a first-round match.
The doubles competition was hard fought with South Carolina posting the first win at No. 3 doubles as Kyle Koch and Carl Eguez defeated Niall Angus and Jeremy Efferding, 8-3. A&M would bounce back at No. 1 doubles. Freshman Jackson Withrow and sophomore Junior Ore, ranked No. 37 in the land, defeated South Carolina's top tandem of Chip Cox and Nick Jones, 8-4. The Gamecock duo was ranked No. 23 in the latest rankings. The all-important doubles point came down to No. 2 doubles where Aggie co-captains Hoover and Klegou were deadlocked at 3-3 with the Gamecocks. The Aggie veterans turned it on and won the final five games to post an 8-3 win to give A&M a 1-0 lead.
Hoover continued to keep the heat on South Carolina by posting a straight sets victory, 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles over Nick Jones and another Aggie senior, John Lewis, extended the Aggie lead to 3-0 with a straight sets victory at No. 5 singles, 6-1, 7-6 (3). Aggie freshman Jackson Withrow would clinch the match with a straight sets win at No. 6 singles, 6-1, 6-2, to close out the match and the singles portion took just 40 minutes.
The Aggies and the Trojans faced each other on Mar. 16, 2012, in College Station and USC came away with a 5-2 win that snapped the Aggies' 43-match home winning streak. USC posted the first of three straight NCAA titles in College Station at the George Mitchell Tennis Center in 2009. The Trojans are led by Steve Johnson who is the top-ranked singles player in the country and USC has five players ranked in the nation's top 57. The Trojans have three doubles teams ranked in the nation's top 35.
Texas A&M 4, South Carolina 0
Marks Tennis Stadium - May 12, 2012
(1) #37 Ore-Withrow (Texas A&M) def. #23 Cox-Jones (South Carolina) - 8-4
(2) Klegou-Hoover (Texas A&M) def. Machado-Pinheiro (South Carolina) - 8-3
(3) Koch-Eguez (South Carolina) def. Angus-Efferding (Texas A&M) - 8-3
Texas A&M wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 3, 1, 2
(1) #33 Alexis Klegou (Texas A&M) vs. #115 Kyle Machado (South Carolina) 6-4, 2-2 susp.
(2) Junior Ore (Texas A&M) vs. #122 Andrew Adams (South Carolina) 7-6 (5) susp.
(3) Colin Hoover (Texas A&M) def. Nick Jones (South Carolina) 6-4, 6-0
(4) Jeremy Efferding (Texas A&M) vs. Thiago Pinheiro (South Carolina) 2-6, 4-3 susp.
(5) John Lewis (Texas A&M) def. Chip Cox (South Carolina) 6-1, 7-6 (3)
(6) Jackson Withrow (Texas A&M) def. Kyle Koch (South Carolina) 6-1, 6-2*
Order of finish: 3, 5, 6*