UNC Wilmington upsets South Carolina in opening round of NCAA tourney
DURHAM, N.C. -- Go right ahead and check off another milestone for UNC Wilmington.
The No. 53 Seahawks added another entry to their tennis hopper full of “firsts” on Friday with an impressive 4-0 upset of No. 18 South Carolina in the opening match of the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis tournament in the Duke Regional at the sun-splashed Ambler Tennis Center.
The shutout gave the Seahawks their first NCAA tourney win and vaulted them into the regional final against the No. 9 Blue Devils.
“It’s a big win for us in so many ways,” said a smiling UNC Wilmington head coach Mait DuBois, the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year. “We’ve knocked on the door so many times. We have a lot of respect for South Carolina and to beat a team that we have so much respect for makes it special.
“We’ve been talking about the importance of having every person on every court show up and then good things will happen. And [Friday] we had it.”
The Seahawks, who dropped a 4-3 decision to the Gamecocks on Feb. 20 in Columbia, S.C., set the tone early this time by dominating doubles play. It was UNCW’s first win against USC in four career tries.
The No. 1 team of Kosta Blank and Chris Cooprider, ranked 30th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, breezed past No. 17 Tsvetan Mihov and Chip Cox 8-2, and the No. 2 tandem of Raphael Aita and Sam Williams, rated 52nd, clinched the critical point with an identical romp against No. 39 Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies.
“We haven’t lost a lot of doubles points this year and South Carolina won the point in our match in February, so I think our guys wanted to make a statement,” DuBois said.
When singles action started, Aita, the 2013 CAA Player of the Year, gave the Seahawks a 2-0 lead by beating Mihov 6-2, 7-6 (4), at the top of the lineup to keep the momentum going. Zach Hublitz extended the lead to 3-0 by downing Menzies 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 6 spot.
Cooprider then delivered the clincher by surprising No. 81 Andrew Adams 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2 to keep the Seahawks in the tournament.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a little while and then start thinking about [Saturday], DuBois said. "It’s been six years of work and ... guys put a lot of work into it, so we want to enjoy the moment.”