KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State's 12th-ranked men's tennis squad (12-4, 3-1 SEC) concluded a tough SEC road weekend with a 4-3 victory over the No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers (8-9, 1-3 SEC) on Sunday.
As the winner of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic (played in March) was to be determined by the winner of this match, the Bulldogs would fight to earn the victory and the crown.
Clinching the match for the Bulldogs Sunday was 27th-ranked Artem Ilyushin in the top spot, where he rallied from a set down to lift State to victory in a key comeback win. Dropping the first set 6-4, Ilyushin would battle back to take the second 6-3 and send the match to a third. Taking an early 2-0 lead, Ilyushin pushed his lead to 5-2 and served out to down his 36th-ranked Volunteer foe, Libietis, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Ilyushin has now won six matches against opponents ranked in the top-40. Along with his impressive play at the Blue Gray in late February and the match-clincher today, Ilyushin was named the Most Valuable Player at of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic.
The day began with MSU taking the opening doubles point.
MSU's duo of George Coupland and Ilyushin ousted UT's pair of Jarryd Chaplin and Brandon Fickey in an early 8-5 decision on court 2. However, the Vols would quickly answer as the 19th-ranked duo of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese downed No. 23 Louis Cant and Malte Stropp of MSU 8-5 in the top spot, leaving the doubles clincher in the third position.
Battling at No. 3 for MSU was the duo of Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson. Facing UT's pair of Bryan Swartz and Edward Jones, both teams held serve until the MSU duo was able to hold at 7-6 and break the Vols to take the match 8-6 and the doubles point for MSU.
Swinging to singles play, Tennessee would put up a fight as they took four out of six first sets from the Bulldogs.
The first to finish was MSU's White where he quickly downed his Volunteer foe Taylor Patrick, 6-2, 6-3 on court 6, extending State's lead to 2-0.
Tennessee's Jones would answer with the Vols' first point of the day, ousting MSU's 41st-ranked Coupland in the fifth spot 6-3, 6-4, closing the gap to 2-1. Evening the match for UT was Chaplin as he downed MSU's 37th-ranked Cant 6-4, 6-3 on court 4.
Battling in the No. 2 position for MSU was junior James Chaudry as he claimed a grueling match to regain the lead for State with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over UT's 95th-ranked Reese. That set up Ilyushin's match-clinching victory at No. 1.
With the final match in a third set on court 3, MSU's 75th-ranked Stropp was battling Fickey of Tennessee. Dropping the first set 6-3, Stropp would fight back and take the second 6-4. With both sides holding serve to 5-5, Fickey would hold to 6-5 and break to take the match 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
MSU will now take a couple of weeks off until the team resumes play against the ninth-ranked Gators of Florida on Friday, March 23, at 5 p.m. ET in Gainesville, Fla.
No. 12 Mississippi State 4, No. 19 Tennessee 3
3/11/12 - Goodfriend Tennis Center - Knoxville, Tenn.
1) #27 Ilyushin (MSU) def. #36 Libietis (UT) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
2) James Chaudry (MSU) def. #95 Reese (UT) 6-4, 6-3
3) Fickey (UT) def. #75 Stropp (MSU) 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
4) Chaplin (UT) def. #37 Cant (MSU) 6-4, 6-3
5) Jones (UT) def. #41 Coupland (MSU) 6-3, 6-4
6) White (MSU) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 6-2, 6-3
Order of finish... Doubles (2,1,3)... Singles (6,5,4,2,1,3)