By Kyle Heck/Photo by SC Athletics
South Carolina entered the Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga. on Friday after taking care of business at home in the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The reward for the Gamecocks was a matchup with Ohio State, the No. 3 seed and a squad that has been a consistent top-five team.
The Gamecocks put up a fight, but in the end the Buckeyes came away with a 4-1 win, putting an end to South Carolina's season.
The match started in doubles, where Paige Cline and Hadley Berg dropped No. 1 doubles. Ingrid Gamarra Martins and Brigit Folland bounced back with a 6-3 win at No. 2, and the all-important doubles point came down to Caroline Dailey and Rachel Rohrabacher at No. 3. That duo trailed 2-0 early on, and couldn't quite recover, falling 6-3 to give Ohio State a 1-0 lead entering singles.
The Gamecocks have been excellent all season at winning near the bottom of the singles lineup, but that wasn't the case against Ohio State.
First, Francesca Di Lorenzo, the No. 1 ranked singles player in the country, quickly dispatched Gamarra Martins (6-1, 6-1) at No. 1, and shortly thereafter Sandy Niehaus came away with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Berg at No. 5 to make it 3-0 Ohio State. Berg entered the day having lost just twice all season long.
Mia Horvit gave the Gamecocks some life with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over Ohio State's Anna Sanford at No. 2, but Miho Kowase ended South Carolina's hopes by knocking off Silvia Chinellato, 7-5, 6-2 at the No. 4 spot.
"I would say first of all, a big congratulations to Ohio State," head coach Kevin Epley said. "Coming from the North, coming down to our conditions and our environment, it's hot. This isn't the kind of tennis they are used to playing. To be able to come out and establish that competitive spirit, to be able to come out and play doubles that strong and to have that kind of ball tolerance is a real credit to that team, that organization. As far as we go, they were just better on all those fronts. In big moments, they made their shots. We missed."
The Gamecocks played close in several of the sets, but the Buckeyes were able to do just enough to come away with the points. It ended a fantastic season that saw South Carolina make its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2009. The Gamecocks finished 20-8.