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March 1, 2012

Olympic Sports Roundup

The No. 22 South Carolina women's tennis team enjoyed a fantastic five-day span last week by posting victories over Palmetto State rivals Clemson (No. 17), College of Charleston and Winthrop.

By beating the hated Tigers, USC snapped a five-match losing streak to Clemson and registered its first win in the series since 2006.

However, the news this week hasn't been as upbeat for the Gamecocks (7-1) as they prepare for the start of conference play.

Head coach Arlo Elkins, one of the longest serving head coaches at USC with 29 years under his belt, announced his resignation on Tuesday. He will be replaced on an interim basis for the remainder of the season by Katarina Petrovic, who is now in her eighth season with the Gamecocks.

"This was a very difficult decision for me, but it's the right one," Elkins said in a prepared statement. "I felt it was in my best interest and the best interests of the University, the athletics department and the student-athletes for me to step aside from the day-to-day activities as the head coach. My current condition does not allow me to do this job the way I expect to do it."

The 62-year old Elkins posted a career record of 438-291 and 19 NCAA Tournament appearances at USC. The Gamecocks have participated in 17 NCAA Tournaments in a row and reached the second round in 15 of those appearances. The Gamecocks' 17 straight NCAA bids is tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the nation.

Elkins' teams reached the NCAA Sweet 16 four times (1990, 1995, 1999, 2009) during his career and made one trip to the quarterfinals in 2009.

"It would be unfair to everyone involved for me to continue coaching," Elkins said. "Looking back, I like to think in the nearly 30 years I have served as head coach, I managed to touch the lives of many people and made a positive impact on them."

The first difficult assignment for Petrovic in the post-Elkins Era? Prepare her players to face two teams ranked in the ITA's top five this weekend, starting Friday when USC faces No. 4 Georgia at 2:30 p.m. in Athens. Two days later, USC travels to Knoxville to take on No. 5 Tennessee at 1 p.m.

SOFTBALL: After outscoring Charlotte, 13-7, Wednesday afternoon on the road, USC (12-4) heads to Riverside, Calif., for the Highlander Classic hosted by UC-Riverside. The Gamecocks face Portland State Friday at noon ET at Amy S. Harrison Field. Later in the day, USC squares off with Maine. The Gamecocks take on host UC-Riverside on Saturday (2:30 pm ET) and UC-Davis on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET) before returning to the Palmetto State.

In the high-scoring victory over the 49ers, USC's four-run first inning stood up as it posted a wire-to-wire win. Ahead 8-6, the Gamecocks secured the win with five runs in the top of the sixth. Dana Hathorn and Chelsea Hawkins had three hits apiece, with Hawkins picking up his fourth homer of the season.

USC split a doubleheader with Charleston Southern on Tuesday, dropping the opener, 2-0, before bouncing back with an 11-2 win (5 innings) in Game 2. The Gamecocks managed just two hits in Game 1, but responded with four homers among their 10 hits in the nightcap.

MEN'S TENNIS: After posting consecutive 6-1 wins over Furman and Charlotte last weekend, USC jumped 24 spots to No. 22 in the Campbell/ITA Team Rankings, the program's highest ranking in years. Clearly, a freshman group that propelled USC to the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation has bolstered the Gamecocks.

"We're happy for our guys to be a top-25 team," USC head coach Josh Goffi said. "They've worked extremely hard and have bought into everything we have said. But, it's a long season, and we can't get ahead of ourselves. We are heading into the SEC season, and the competition is the toughest in the country. We are going to continue focusing more on the team goals that we set for each match and not as much on the rankings."

The schedule gets more rigorous for USC as it begins SEC play Friday with a 2:30 p.m. home match against No. 6 Georgia at the Carolina Tennis Center, weather permitting. Sunday, USC hosts No. 19 Tennessee in a 1 p.m. match.

The Gamecocks have defeated five ranked opponents this season, three on the road. South Carolina's 10-1 start matches the 2009 team, which eventually improved to 12-1 with a pair of wins on the opening weekend of conference play.

MEN'S GOLF: USC finished third at the two-day Seahawk Invitational in Wilmington, N.C., as senior Wesley Bryan fired a final-round 70 (-2) on Monday to claim medalist honors. As a team, the Gamecocks shot a 4-under 284 in the final round to finish behind East Carolina and Wake Forest with a total three-round score of 875 (+11).

Bryan became the first USC golfer to win individual honors at a tournament since Paul Woodbury captured the Seminole Intercollegiate in March of 2010. Bryan carded three consecutive under-par rounds to win the Seahawk Invitational, finishing with a seven-under par score of 209. The victory is the second of Bryan's career and marked his fourth career top-five finish.

"He (Bryan) was in the zone all week and played another solid round (Monday)," South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. "He was as prepared in all phases of his game as I've ever seen him. Hopefully he will be able to use this as a springboard into the next tournament."

Freshman Sean Kelly played an integral role in USC's No. 3 finish with a career-low 68 (-4) in the final round. His three-round total of 219 (+3) was good enough for 12th place. Freshman Caleb Sturgeon played the tournament as an individual and finished in a tie for seventh with a total score of 215 (-1).

"All five guys played really solid golf, and Caleb Sturgeon had a great tournament as an individual," McDonald said. "We haven't had that in a while and it was nice to move up a couple of spots. We are getting a good foundation in our lineup. Overall, I think it was a good week for us and a good start to the spring."

USC returns to action Monday and Tuesday (March 5-6) in the Palmetto Intercollegiate at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C.

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D. McCallum

South Carolina NEWS


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