STARKVILLE, Miss. - Following an intense 4-3 upset over the No. 11 Florida Gators on the road Friday night, Mississippi State's 12th-ranked men's tennis squad (14-4, 5-1 SEC) followed that win up with a convincing 6-1 victory over No. 40 South Carolina (13-7, 0-6 SEC) Sunday in Starkville to cap a weekend sweep in SEC play.
With State's win Sunday, coupled with Florida's win at Ole Miss, the defending SEC West champion Bulldogs currently find themselves in sole possession of first place in the West at the midway point of the 2012 SEC schedule.
However, the Bulldogs would battle back to earn wins in the top two spots and the opening point of the afternoon. MSU's George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin earned the win in top spot for the Bulldogs as they ousted USC's 64th-ranked tandem Chip Cox and Nick Jones 8-5. State's No. 24 Louis Cant and Malte Stropp took the match clincher for the Dogs in tiebreaker on court 2. Battling back and forth with USC's duo of Ivan Machado and Thiago Pinheiro, the Gamecocks took an 8-7 lead. However, the Bulldogs were able to hold serve and post a 9-8(2) decision in the tiebreaker and clinch the doubles point for MSU.
Swinging to singles action, after an early challenge from USC, the Bulldogs would ultimately take five out of six first sets to keep their momentum intact.
MSU's James Chaudry was the first to finish as he breezed at the No. 2 spot, defeating USC's Jones 6-2, 6-0, extending the Bulldog lead to 2-0. Quickly following was the 36th-ranked Coupland who earned a victory on court 4 as South Carolina's No. 114 Pinheiro retired after falling behind 7-6(2), 1-0.
With MSU up 3-0, the 37th-ranked Cant would clinch for the second time on the weekend for the Bulldogs, notching a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Koch in the fifth position, giving the Bulldogs the team win. Cant posted a perfect 4-0 slate in doubles and singles combined this weekend.
State's 14th-ranked Ilyushin posted MSU's next point, remaining undefeated (6-0) in SEC singles play this season with a solid 6-4, 6-2 win over USC's 104th-ranked Machado at the top spot in the lineup. Finishing just seconds after Ilyushin on court 6 was State's White, who took an easy 6-2, 6-2 decision from the Gamecocks' Eguez.
South Carolina's only point of the day would come from Andrew Adams in the third position as he downed MSU's 113th-ranked Stropp 6-3, 6-4.
"Our goal was to finish 2-0 this weekend and we knew that was going to be tough," said head coach Per Nilsson said. "It was huge for our guys to win on the road at Florida and I am proud that we finished out the weekend with a solid win at home."
Mississippi State will be back in action next weekend as they host a pair of SEC West foes in LSU on Friday, March 30 (2 p.m.) and Arkansas on Sunday, April 1 (1 p.m.). Sunday's matchup is Senior Day when MSU will honor a trio of seniors - Cant, Coupland and Ilyushin.
"We are looking forward to next weekend," Nilsson said. "Next weekend's matches are our last two at home and we have the privilege of honoring three deserving seniors on Senior Day against LSU."
No. 12 Mississippi State 6, #40 South Carolina 1
3/25/12 - A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre - Starkville, Miss.
1) George Coupland/Artem Ilyushin (MSU) def. #64 Chip Cox/Nick Jones (USC) 8-5
2) #24 Louis Cant/Malte Stropp (MSU) def. Ivan Machado/Thiago Pinheiro (USC) 9-8(2)
3) Kyle Koch/Carl Eguez (USC) def. Zach White/Ethan Wilkinson (MSU) 8-5
1) #14 Ilyushin (MSU) def. #104 Machado (USC) 6-4, 6-2
2) James Chaudry (MSU) def. Jones (USC) 6-2, 6-0
3) Andrew Adams (USC) def. #113 Stropp (MSU) 6-3, 6-4
4) #36 Coupland (MSU) def. #114 Pinheiro (USC) 7-6(2), 1-0 (ret.)
5) #37 Cant (MSU) def. Koch (USC) 6-4, 6-4
6) White (MSU) def. Eguez (USC) 6-2, 6-2
Order of finish... Doubles (3,1,2)... Singles (2,4,5,1,6,3)