STARKVILLE, Miss. - In the sunny weather at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre Sunday, No. 11 Mississippi State men's tennis (10-2) closed out 2013 non-conference play in dramatic fashion with a thrilling 4-3 victory against No. 47 Middle Tennessee (8-3). With the win, State moved to 17-2 all-time against the Blue Raiders, 14-1 at home.
The win also gave MSU its first 5-0 start at home since 2004, when the Bulldogs started 5-0 as well at the Pitts Tennis Centre.
Middle Tennessee grabbed the early advantage, taking the doubles point with wins on courts one and three. State's No. 13 duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp dropped an 8-4 decision to Middle Tennessee's Ben Davis and Victor Cornea on court one. However, State fired back with an 8-6 victory from Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson against MT's Yannick Born and Marlon Brand.
Court three set the scene for the deciding match, with a battle between MSU's Romain Bogaerts, and Pedro Dumont and MT's David Fox and Christoph Lang. The two sides battled back and forth throughout the match, eventually coming to a tiebreaker, with the Blue Raider duo coming out victorious 8-7(5).
State would need four victories in singles to defeat their opponents from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and those wins would not come without a big fight from Middle Tennessee.
State would grab its first win on court three, as senior James Chaudry took down MT's Lang in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 to level the overall score at 1-1. Following suit was MSU's No. 43 Stropp at the two spot, as he defeated Middle Tennessee's Cornea 6-1, 6-3 to give MSU the lead. State would add one more to the cause soon after, as the rookie Angus (the freshman upped his dual record to 11-0) would claim a 6-3, 6-1 victory on court four against MT's Born, putting the Bulldogs one away from victory.
However, the Blue Raiders would storm back to tie it up with victories on courts five and six. MT's Ettore Zito claimed a 6-2, 6-2 victory against State's Stefan Vinti at the No. 5 position, while Fox of Middle Tennessee won 6-1, 6-4 against MSU's White at the No. 6 spot.
With the score equalized at 3-3, the match came down to court one, in a battle of ranked opponents, No. 19 Bogaerts of MSU and the Blue Raiders' No. 98 Davis. While other matches were still in progress and the team match still in doubt, Bogaerts found himself down 5-4 in the first set after being broken by Davis. The Bulldog freshman proceeded to ignite the Pitts Tennis Centre crowd by winning three-straight games to take the first set 7-5, including rallying from 40-0 down in the final game to break and take the set.
With the first set in the books for Bogaerts, the Huppaye, Belgium, native cruised in the second, taking the match 7-5, 6-1 to clinch the overall victory for the Bulldogs.
State will now head into Southeastern Conference play next weekend, as the Bulldogs hit the road to the state of Alabama. MSU will take on the No. 21 Auburn Tigers Friday, Mar. 1, and close out the two game road swing at Alabama, taking on the Crimson Tide Sunday, Mar. 3.
"We're heading into SEC play next after getting two good wins this past weekend against two very tough teams," head coach Per Nilsson said. "Now we have a lot of work to do this week to prepare for conference play."
No. 11 Mississippi State 4, No. 47 Middle Tennessee 3
February 24, 2013 - A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre - Starkville, Miss.
1) No. 19 Bogaerts (MSU) def. No. 98 Davis 7-5, 6-1
2) No. 43 Stropp (MSU) def. Cornea (MT) 6-1, 6-3
3) James Chaudry (MSU) def. Lang (MT) 6-1, 6-3
4) Angus (MSU) def. Born (MT) 6-3, 6-1
5) Ettore Zito (MT) def. Stefan Vinti (MSU) 6-2, 6-2
6) Fox (MT) def. White (MSU) 6-1, 6-4
Order of finish... Doubles (1,2,3)... Singles (3,2,4,6,5,1)