STARKVILLE, Miss. – For a second-straight season, several of the nation’s top teams will make their way to Starkville, Miss., as the 13th-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis squad (2-0) hosts the 2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, Jan. 25-26 at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
The Bulldogs will open play at the Kick-Off Saturday against No. 26 Harvard (0-0) at 1 p.m. CT, which marks only the second time in history a Harvard athletic team has played in Starkville. The HU men’s tennis team visited the MSU campus last year for the 2013 NCAA Championship First/Second Rounds, where they reached the second round of play, falling to State. That contest will follow the weekend’s opening match between No. 18 South Carolina (2-0) and No. 21 Memphis (0-0), scheduled to start at 10 a.m.
MSU joins SEC foes Ole Miss and Vanderbilt as the only three of the 15 host sites to have all of their participating teams in the top 30 of the ITA National Team Rankings.
Saturday’s losing teams will meet on Sunday for a consolation match set for 10 a.m., while the two winners will play in the title match at 1 p.m. for the right to advance to Houston, Texas, to play in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship Feb. 13-16.
State will look to continue their solid home play after sweeping its season-opening doubleheader against Jackson State and Alabama State last weekend with a pair of 7-0 victories.
The Bulldogs will be led into the weekend by the senior pair of No. 39 Malte Stropp and Zach White, along with SEC Freshman of the Week Florian Lakat, ranked 63rd in the nation. Stropp will be making his first appearance of the 2014 season, while both Lakat and White went a combined 4-0 last week, with Lakat playing both matches from the No. 1 position. Rounding out singles are sophomore Jordan Angus and newcomers Tassilo Schmid, Robin Haden and Rishab Agarwal, who went a combined 8-0 to start the year.
In doubles, an assortment of duos took the court for the Maroon and White to open the season. Agarwal, Angus, Haden, Lakat, Schmid, freshman Egbert Weverink and White all made appearances in tandem play, with MSU going 6-0 in doubles matches last weekend.
“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to host the ITA Kick-Off Weekend again and host some of the nation’s top teams,” coach Per Nilsson said. “It is a great chance for us to get some big wins and continue getting better and growing as a team.”
MSU’s Saturday opponent, the Harvard Crimson, will see their first action of 2014 when they take to the courts at the Pitts Tennis Centre. HU is led by an experienced squad of seniors and juniors, most notably senior Casey MacMaster and junior Alex Steinroeder, the 2014 team captains.
Following the 2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, the Bulldogs will hit the road for the first time this season, heading to Lubbock, Texas. MSU will face No. 53 Texas Tech Friday, Jan. 31 (1:30 p.m. CT), and then the Rice Owls on Saturday, Feb. 1 (time TBA).
Saturday, January 25
|Match #1 - #2 South Carolina vs. #3 Memphis||10 a.m.||Live Stats | Twitter|
|Match #2 - #1 Mississippi State vs. #4 Harvard||not before 1 p.m.||Live Stats | Twitter|
Sunday, January 26
|Consolation Match - Match #1 Loser vs. Match #2 Loser||10 a.m.||Live Stats | Twitter|
|Championship Match** - Match #1 Winner vs. Match #2 Winner||not before 1 p.m.||Live Stats | Twitter|
** - Winner advances to ITA Men's National Team Indoor Championship in Houston, Texas, February 13-16