STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's 12th-ranked men's tennis squad (11-3) dropped a tough 4-3 decision to the visiting third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers (9-1) during an epic top 15 matchup on the MSU campus Tuesday afternoon.
The contest was only the second meeting between the two schools as Virginia took the first meeting 4-2 in the second-round of the 2004 NCAA Championship in Charlottesville.
With a tight match that came to a 3-3 tie after a grueling three-plus hours of competition, all eyes turned to the top position in the lineup where a classic battle between two top 30 competitors ensued. Ranked 27th in the country, MSU senior Artem Ilyushin had taken a quick 6-2 decision from Virginia's 8th-ranked Jermere Jenkins in the first set early on. Battling back, Jenkins would find himself splitting with Ilyushin as he took the second 6-3.
In the third, Ilyushin would immediately break his Cavalier foe but Jenkins would break right back and hold serve, taking a 2-1 lead. The players stayed even to 3-3 when Ilyushin broke again for a 4-3 lead, but once again Jenkins answered with a break of his own to 4-4. Jenkins was then able to hold serve and break in the final game of the match for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 decision, giving UVA the 4-3 decision over Mississippi State.
State got the early lead in the match by taking the doubles point. In the second position for State was the tandem of George Coupland and Ilyushin. Taking the first decision in doubles, the MSU duo notched an 8-5 decision over Virginia's Jenkins and Phillippe Oudshoorn.
Battling on No. 1 for the Dogs was the 23rd-ranked tandem of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp. As Bulldog duo battled Virginia's 60th-ranked pair of Alex Domijan and Steven Rooda, the match would battle back and forth until MSU was able to break Virginia at 7-7 and serve to win the match 9-7 and the doubles point for the Bulldogs.
Swinging into singles play, in the No. 2 position for MSU was Chaudry where he faced Virginia's 53rd-ranked Domijan. Taking a close first set 6-4, Domijan would press harder as he took the second set and match 6-4, 6-2, evening the match at 1-1 for the Cavaliers. Virginia's Uriguen would give the Cavaliers their first lead of the day as he downed MSU's White 7-5, 6-2 in the No. 6 spot.
However, the Bulldogs would battle back as the 41st-ranked Coupland ended another fiery battle at the No. 5 position against Virginia's Oudshoorn, fighting him off for a 7-5, 7-6(3) victory.
The Cavaliers would again regain the lead as the top-ranked player in the country, Frank, would take a 7-5, 6-3 decision from 75th-ranked Stropp of MSU, giving UVA a 3-2 lead.
Tying the match for the third time was MSU's No. 37 Cant who mounted an impressive comeback on court 4. Dualing with Virginia's 72nd-ranked Justin Shane, Cant dropped a 6-3 decision in the first set but would storm back and down Shane 6-2 in the second. In a tight third, Cant would eventually oust his Cavalier foe 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 and even the match at 3-3, setting up the dramatic finish at No. 1.
Mississippi State will be back in action this Friday, March 9, when they take on sixth-ranked Georgia at 1:30 p.m. CT in Athens, Ga.
#3 Virginia 4, #12 Mississippi State 3
3/6/12 - A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre - Starkville, Miss.
1) #23 Louis Cant/Malte Stropp (MSU) def. #60 Alex Domijan/ Steven Rooda (UVA) 9-7
2) George Coupland/Artem Ilyushin (MSU) def. Jarmere Jenkins/Phillippe Oudshoorn (UVA) 8-5
3) Mitchell Frank/Julen Uriguen (UVA) def. James Chaudry/Zach White (MSU) 8-4
1) #8 Jenkins (UVA) def. #27 Ilyushin (MSU) 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
2) #53 Domijan (UVA) def. Chaudry (MSU) 6-4, 6-2
3) #1 Frank (UVA) def. #75 Stropp (MSU) 7-5, 6-3
4) #37 Cant (MSU) def. #72 Justin Shane (UVA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
5) #41 Coupland (MSU) def. Oudshoorn (UVA) 7-5, 7-6(3)
6) Uriguen (UVA) def. White (MSU) 7-5, 6-2
Order of finish... Doubles (2,3,1)... Singles (2,6,5,3,4,1)