LUBBOCK, Texas – After a heart-racing comeback Friday against No. 53 Texas Tech, the No. 10 Mississippi State men’s tennis Bulldogs (6-0) took care of business Saturday, defeating the Rice Owls (2-3) 5-2 at the McLeod Tennis Center in Lubbock, Texas.
State moves to 3-0 all time against Rice with the victory, including a 2-0 record on neutral courts against the Owls.
The Bulldogs got off to a hot start, taking the doubles point for the first time in four matches. On court two, the freshman pair of Florian Lakat and Egbert Weverink made quick work of Rice’s Srikar Alla and Leif Berber, earning a 6-3 victory. The MSU tandem of Rishab Agarwal and Zach White clinched doubles play for the Bulldogs, defeating the Owl team of Adam Gustafsson and Zach Yablon 6-3 on court three, moving to 3-0 on the season.
In singles, MSU earned three straight-set victories early to clinch the win against the Owls. Freshman Robin Haden struck first for State on court six, earning an impressive 6-1, 6-3 victory against Rice’s Henrik Munch in only his third match of the season. Following suit on court three was MSU’s Angus, who defeated Rice’s Gustafsson 6-4, 6-3 to put MSU up 3-0 in the match. The win also moved Angus to 6-0 to begin the season.
The clincher came on court five, as the Bulldog freshman Agarwal used back-to-back tiebreakers to defeat the Owls’ Gustavo Gonzalez 6-5(2), 6-5(4), giving MSU the overall match. The win was Agarwal’s second match-clinching victory of the year.
Play continued following the clinch, with matches remaining on court one, two and four. MSU’s 63rd-ranked Lakat was forced to a third set by Rice’s Alla, but took the victory, picking up a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 triumph on court one. On court two, No. 39 Stropp fell to Rice’s Bennett in a third-set super tiebreaker, 6-5(6), 2-6, 1-0(8), while State’s White dropped a 6-3, 3-6, 6-5(5) decision to the Owl’s Warren on court four.
“We had two really good wins this weekend and I am proud of how our guys fought,” coach Per Nilsson said. “Really great seeing this team improving with each match and looking forward to heading back home for the next two contests.”
The 10th-ranked Bulldogs return home to the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre for their next two matches, as they face No. 66 Samford and Alcorn State in a Sunday doubleheader on Feb. 9 starting at 12 p.m. CT. Following the quick homestand, MSU will travel to Houston, Texas, for the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, Feb. 13-16.
No. 10 Mississippi State 5, Rice 2
February 1, 2014 – McLeod Tennis Center– Lubbock, Texas
1) No. 63 Lakat (MSU) def. Alla (Rice) 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
2) Bennett (Rice) def. No. 39 Stropp (MSU) 6-5(6), 2-6, 1-0(8)
3) Angus (MSU) def. Gustafsson (Rice) 6-4, 6-3
4) Warren (Rice) def. White (MSU) 6-3, 3-6, 6-5(5)
5) Agarwal (MSU) def. Gustavo Gonzalez (Rice) 6-5(2), 6-5(4)
6) Robin Haden (MSU) def. Henrik Munch (Rice) 6-1, 6-3
Order of finish… Doubles (2,3)… Singles (6,3,5,2,1,4)