SEATTLE, Wash. - For the first time since 1999, the No. 10 Mississippi State men's tennis team (7-0) will compete in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash., kicking off play against the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (8-1) Friday. The opening match of the tournament is set to begin at 1 p.m. CT.
Sixteen teams make up the ITA Team Indoor field, with seven of those teams from the Southeastern Conference.
State comes into Friday's match with the best start in school history since 1998, when the Bulldogs started 7-0 as well. That very year, MSU reached the semifinals of both the ITA National Team Indoors and the NCAA Championship.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is one of the nation's top freshmen, No. 19 Romain Bogaerts. The Huppaye, Belgium, native comes in with a 6-1 record this spring, including two ranked wins. Bogaerts' 4-1 record at the No. 1 position marks the best start by a freshman in the Per Nilsson era at the top spot.
Also at the top of the Bulldogs' order is 43rd-ranked Malte Stropp, who recently received SEC Player of the Week honors. Stropp, a junior from Dusseldorf, Germany, is 7-0 on the season, one of two Bulldogs to have such a start this season. Among those seven victories is an impressive 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 upset of fifth-ranked Jonas Lutjen of Ole Miss in the River Hills Cup, the annual meeting between the two in-state rivals in Jackson, Miss.
A pair of England natives have anchored the middle of the lineup for State this season. MSU senior James Chaudry has held the three position for the majority of the season, with a 4-2 record in dual match play. Bulldog freshman Jordan Angus is a perfect 7-0 for the 2013 campaign, winning six of those matches in straight sets. Angus' start marks the best by a freshman in the Per Nilsson era.
MSU freshmen Stefan Vinti and Pedro Dumont have regularly rounded out the lineup for the Bulldogs this season. Vinti holds a 2-3 record in dual match play this season, only losing a total of four games in the two wins. Dumont sports a 4-2 record, while going 3-0 in three-set matches and 5-0 in tiebreakers this spring.
In doubles, the 13th-ranked duo of Angus and Stropp will lead the Bulldogs in Seattle. 4-1 for year, the tandem's only loss came in a tough 7-8(3) loss to the 2nd-ranked team of Auburn's Dan Cochrane and Andreas Mies.
The 7th-ranked Wildcats will be led by senior Anthony Rossi, ranked 90th in the nation. Rossi is 6-1 on the year, with all games played at UK's top spot. Following Rossi will be No. 29 Tom Jomby, a junior who is 5-1 for the season.
UK's doubles squad of Jomby and Kevin Lai make up the No. 34 tandem in the nation, holding a 5-2 record at the Wildcats' top doubles spot this season.
"We're really excited about play in the ITA Team Indoors and to have the chance to play against the best teams in the nation," head coach Per Nilsson said. "This tournament gives our guys good experience and could really help us out in the long run."
Following Friday's match, State will either play No. 2 Southern California or No. 15 Texas A&M Saturday, pending outcomes, with the time to be determined.