April 23, 2009
AUBURN - The No. 30 LSU men's tennis team picked up a first-round victory in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Men's Tennis Tournament Thursday afternoon, defeating 28th-ranked South Carolina, 4-2.
The 2009 SEC Men's Tennis Tournament is a four-day tournament hosted by Auburn University at the Auburn University/City of Auburn Yarbrough Tennis Center. One of the toughest tennis leagues in the country, the SEC features seven teams currently ranked in the top-25 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
LSU got rolling early by winning the doubles point. The third-ranked team of Michael Venus and Neal Skupski picked up the first win for the Tigers with an 8-4 victory over USC's 23rd ranked Diego Cubas and Ivan Machado. LSU's Sebastian Carlsson and Julien Gauthier sealed the point with an 8-4 win over Ivan Cressoni and Johannes Pulsfort.
In singles play, LSU's sixth-ranked Venus dropped the first game 2-6 to USC's 51st-ranked Cubas, but came back in games two and three to win the first set 2-6, 6-1, 6-3. "It was a bit of a slow start, a rough start," said Venus. "I managed to come back and that was good because it was hot out there."
Venus's win was followed by a 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 win for LSU's Neal Skupski over Jaime Cuellar. Mark Bowtell polished off the 4-2 victory for the Tigers with a 6-4, 6-1 win over South Carolina's Johannes Pulsfort.
"We played hard; everybody was engaged in their match," said LSU head coach Jeff Brown. "There wasn't anybody that was taking anything for granted or thinking that the fourth point would come easy.
Our number one, Michael Venus, fought back really well. Mark Bowtell did a really great job of winning on number 5. We had a couple of chances to finish it, which is what you need against a good team."
With the win, LSU, the tournament No. 8 seed, will move on to face No.
2 Ole Miss, the No. 1 overall tournament seed and SEC regular-season champion. The match will take place at 11 a.m. on the Blue Courts at the Auburn University/City of Auburn Yarbrough Tennis Center.
"We play Ole Miss pretty well usually," said Brown. "It normally comes down to a point or two. We were leading in enough matches the last time we played them, but we weren't able to finish. We will see how we come out and if we are able to play a little bit better in a few spots and give ourselves the chance to be there at the end."
South Carolina head coach Kent DeMars was pleased with his team's performance, but felt the slow doubles start cost his team the victory down the stretch.
"Actually I thought we played really well," said South Carolina head coach Kent DeMars. "We started off a little slow in doubles and they won the doubles point, 1-0 and then we played really well in singles. There were four, three-set matches; we really competed hard."
LSU now moves to 10-10 and 4-7 in the SEC and South Carolina drops to 15-10 and 3-8 in the SEC.