COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The South Carolina women's tennis team claimed its first SEC Tournament in program history after defeating Georgia, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at the Mitchell Tennis Center.
With the match tied, 3-3, all eyes were on court one, No. 4 Ingrid Martins was looking to close out what she started against No. 1 Katarina Jokic earlier in the season with an unfinished match. Martins routed the nation's top player in the first set, 6-1. The two played a closer second set with Jokic getting the win, 6-4. Having not only the match, but the title of SEC Champion on the line, all eyes were on the top-five matchup.
In the third set, Martins fell behind Jokic, 3-1. With the deciding set tied, 4-4, Martins put up a perfect game, taking a, 5-4, lead. Building even more pressure, Martins and Jokic were knotted at 40-40 in the final game. Martins hit a hard one down the line with Jokic hitting it too far, ending the match, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in favor of Martins.
Carolina (20-3, 12-1 SEC) handed Georgia (23-1, 13-0 SEC) its first loss of the season with the SEC Tournament win.
"It's hard to put into words what happened (Sunday)," head coach Kevin Epley said. "This team fights with spirit I've never seen before. The seniors led the charge (Sunday). They have been through a lot and are taking this program to new heights. We are excited for the NCAA Tournament. The sky is the limit for this group."
The Gamecocks started the match by dropping the doubles point, but that was nothing new for them this weekend, having started all three matches with a, 1-0, deficit.
Megan Davies and Silvia Chinellato stormed to a quick, 6-1, victory over Marta Gonzalez and Meg Kowalski on court three. At the No. 2 spot, Paige Cline and Rachel Rohrabacher were not able to top No. 76 Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff, falling, 6-4. On court one, No. 1-ranked Martins and Horvit dropped their match in a close battle, 7-5, to Lourdes Carle and Jokic.
Leading the charge in singles, No. 23 Cline took her first set against No. 19 Gonzalez, 6-3, at the No. 1 position. In the second set, Cline did not allow the Bulldog a single game, winning her match, 6-3, 6-0, and tying the overall score, 1-1.
On court six, Rohrabacher finished almost simultaneously as Cline, topping No. 96 Kowalski in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. Rohrabacher's win gave the Gamecocks the lead, 2-1.
Chinellato fell in her first set against Christofi, 6-3. In the second set, the two were battling back-and-forth, but ultimately, the Bulldog came out on top, 6-3, 7-5, tying the overall match, 2-2.
No. 84 Horvit played a gritty first set with No. 64 Carle at the No. 3 position. After falling behind, 5-1, Horvit cranked out five-straight games, going up, 6-5. Carle came back to tie it, 6-6. In the tiebreaker, the two went toe-to-toe with Horvit breaking away for a, 7-3, win, taking the first set, 7-6 (3). Hovit controlled the second set, pulling out the victory, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and putting Carolina up, 3-2.
At the No. 5 spot, Davies fell to No. 62 Vivian Wolff after a tough match, 7-6 (4), 7-5, once again, tying the overall match, 3-3.
Needing just one more win, Martins prevailed against Jokic, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, clinching the first-ever SEC Championship for the Gamecocks.