Epley after strong start: 'We're getting where we need to be'

Epley after strong start: 'We're getting where we need to be'

Through the first seven matches of the spring, the South Carolina women's tennis team has six wins and one narrow loss. 

Pretty good for a team that hasn't been healthy so far because of various injuries.

"Luckily we're working hard and have a pretty deep team that we can cover for that deficit," head coach Kevin Epley said. "Overall, we've done pretty well considering. It's been a long season. There's a lot ahead of us."

Ingrid Gamarra Martins was one of the Gamecocks' best players, but she's been one of the athletes that has dealt with injuries so far. A freshman has slid into the No. 1 singles spot and performed very admirably. Mia Horvit has more than held her own against the opponent's best player, and another freshman, Silvia Chinellato, has been outstanding as well.

"You don't expect a freshman to be able to come out and compete at a top-20 level, generally," Epley said. "(Mia) has acclimated very well. We couldn't really ask any more out of her.

"Silvia went home and worked hard over the break gearing up for the season," Epley added. "She's improved almost daily. She listens and she competes well. She's done remarkably well." 

One of the highlights before the Gamecocks received a weekend off from competition was a dominating 7-0 win at instate rival Clemson. While the score was a shutout, it took a lot of work from South Carolina. Five of the six singles competitions came down to a deciding third set, and the Gamecocks took every one of the points. 

"Clemson came out ready to play, and that match was away," Epley said. "That was a Palmetto (Series) point match and Clemson was ready to go. In the end we proved to be a little tougher than them."

The season has been successful so far, but the schedule is about to get a lot tougher with SEC play looming. The Gamecocks know they have to step up their game in conference play in order to put themselves in a good position when postseason play comes.

"The SEC season is a battle of attrition," Epley said. "We need to be prepared for that. We need to be prepared to play long points, to fight, to grind out of the corners. Do whatever it takes to win."

The Gamecocks are trying to build off an impressive season last year where they hosted a NCAA Regional. The team certainly has the talent to get back to that point, and the start of this spring has been promising so far. 

"We're inching toward the target," Epley concluded. "We're getting where we need to be."

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**