STARKVILLE, Miss. – After one senior clinched a victory for Mississippi State on Saturday, another stepped into the spotlight on Sunday at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. Malte Stropp handled the pressure with ease, propelling the 13th-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis squad (4-0) to a 4-2 win against No. 21 Memphis (1-1), punching the Bulldogs’ ticket to Houston, Texas, for the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, Feb. 13-16.
Sunday’s match was a battle of two teams that reached the NCAA Round of 16 last spring.
“We knew today was going to be extremely difficult,” coach Per Nilsson said. “But, this team has come together amazingly quick in just two to three weeks. They’re playing as a team and there’s not a time where they aren’t playing their hearts out.”
Stropp, ranked 39th nationally, battled against Memphis’ 56th-ranked Joe Salisbury in a match that saw both sets decided in a tiebreaker. A late break from Stropp in the first set helped set up the first-set tiebreaker, which the MSU veteran took 6-5(3). The second set proved to be just as tough, with Salisbury going up 5-3 and a break. However, Stropp proved resilient and battled back, forcing a tiebreaker and then taking the match 6-5(3), 6-5(2), clinching the win for MSU. It capped a very close battle between the Bulldogs and Tigers during the afternoon, which saw Memphis go up 2-0 early on.
“We knew it was going to take something special, someone had to do something,” Nilsson said. “Malte (Stropp) wasn’t a 100 percent, but was able to pull that out and it was amazing.”
The visitors got on the board first with the doubles point. Memphis took a 6-2 victory from Connor Glennon and Cedric De Zutter against MSU’s Egbert Weverink and Zach White on court two to begin tandem play. The UM duo of Ian Chadwell and Johnny Grimal clinched the point for the Tigers, defeating MSU’s Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid 6-1 on court three. Play at the top spot was suspended at that point, with UM’s No. 3-ranked duo of David O’Hare and Salisbury leading MSU’s No. 52 Jordan Angus and Stropp 4-3.
Up 1-0, the Tigers struck first in singles play as well, gaining a 6-4, 6-3 victory from David O’Leary against MSU’s White on court four. However, that would be the last point added to the board for the Tigers on the day.
MSU freshman Rishab Agarwal earned his first win of the weekend, defeating UM’s Chadwell 6-4, 6-3 on court five. Following suit just moments later, the State sophomore Angus garnered his second-straight victory against a ranked opponent, defeating the Tigers’ No. 87 Grimal 6-2, 6-5(2), leveling the overall score at 2-2.
On court one, the Bulldog freshman Lakat, ranked 63rd in the nation, picked up his first ranked win of the spring, downing UM’s No. 49 Glennon in a tight 6-4, 6-5(5) win – overcoming a second-set break in the process - to energize the Pitts Tennis Centre crowd.
Attention then turned to Stropp on court two and Schmid on court six. After Schmid forced a third set with a tiebreaker victory in the second, Stropp went to work, clinching the match and sending the Maroon and White to Houston. Schmid’s match was suspended following Stropp’s victory, with the score 4-6, 6-5(4), 1-1.
“Incredible performance by the team today,” Stropp said. “I had so much fun playing out there today and fed off our great team chemistry.”
With the win, MSU advances to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship fro the second-straight season, while also improving to 7-3 in ITA Kick-Off Weekend matches.
The Bulldogs will now turn their attention to the road for the first time this season, as they travel to Lubbock, Texas, to take on No. 53 Texas Tech on Friday, Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m. CT, and Rice on Saturday, Feb. 1, at a time to be announced.
No. 13 Mississippi State 4, No. 21 Memphis 2 - 2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
January 26, 2014 – A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre – Starkville, Miss.
1) No. 63 Lakat (MSU) def. No. 49 Glennon (UM) 6-4, 6-5(5)
2) No. 39 Stropp (MSU) def. No. 56 Salisbury (UM) 6-5(3), 6-5(2)
3) Angus (MSU) def. No. 87 Grimal (UM) 6-2, 6-5(2)
4) David O’Leary (UM) def. White (MSU) 6-4, 6-3
5) Rishab Agarwal (MSU) def. Chadwell (UM) 6-4, 6-3
6) Schmid (MSU) vs. O’Hare (UM) 4-6, 6-5(4), 1-1(susp.)
Order of finish… Doubles (2,3)… Singles (4,5,3,1,2)