South Carolina women’s tennis had to push things all the way to the end.
But by the end, they could call themselves something new: SEC Tournament champions for the first time ever.
The Gamecocks pulled out the title 4-3, taking a three-set match when Ingrid Martins out-dueled Katarina Jokic at the No. 1 singles spot. It’s the first loss of the season for the Bulldogs, who came in No. 1 in the country.
Jokic was the top-ranked singles player in the country, but Martins, ranked No. 4, pulled out the 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win. During the regular season, their match was left unfinished as Georgia (23-1) had already clinched the win.
The closest USC had ever been before this was a runner-up finish in 2002.
The No. 5 Gamecocks got singles wins from Paige Cline, Mia Horvit and Rachel Rohrbacher. The Bulldogs took the No. 3 and No. 4 singles spots and the doubles point.
Martins won tournament MVP and Cline was named All-Tournament as well.
USC was second in the regular season standings, going 12-1 in conference play. They’re now 20-3 on the season.
The Gamecocks finished just short of an SEC title, losing the deciding match on the fourth extra hole. The 3-2 loss meant the program’s fourth runner up finished since 2014.
USC’s Lois Kaye Go was forced into extra holes by a very long putt from Macy Somoskey and then put a shot into the water on the 22nd.
The No. 11 Gamecocks were leading early in the afternoon, but Go couldn’t hold her late lead.
South Carolina’s Anita Uwadia had to edge Connor Beth Ball on the 18th to tie things at 2-2. She let a three-hole lead in the early going. Ana Pelaez had South Carolina’s first win, leading by six holes when she clinched with five to go. Ole Miss answered with a win from Kennedy Swann.
USC’s Marion Veysseyre could not hold on down the stretch, falling behind and not being able to catch up.
No. 2-seeded South Carolina went through No. 7 seed Mississippi State, No. 6 seed Auburn but couldn’t get past the 8 seed Rebels.
NCAA Regionals will start May 6.