STARKVILLE, Miss. – Off to a hot 8-0 start, the ninth-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis Bulldogs (8-0) will begin play at the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championship Friday, Feb. 14 against the No. 11 California Golden Bears. State, the No. 9 seed, will face off against eighth-seeded Cal at 6 p.m. CT at the Galleria Tennis and Athletic Club in Houston, Texas.
MSU is making its second-straight appearance in the ITA National Team Indoor Championship and its 10th overall in program history. Sixteen of the nation’s top teams make up the event, hosted by Texas A&M, after earning their way to Houston by winning their respective ITA Kick-Off Weekend events Jan. 25-26. Including State, five Southeastern Conference squads will compete in this year’s field of 16.
Friday’s matchup against Cal marks the third time the two teams have met in men’s tennis, with the overall record tied at 1-1. The squads last met in 1995, when then-No. 7 MSU defeated No. 14 Cal 4-2 in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship in Athens, Ga.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs is the freshman-senior combo of No. 52 Florian Lakat and No. 49 Malte Stropp. Lakat, recently named SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, has held the top spot in the Bulldog lineup all season, putting together a 7-1 record and defeating two ranked opponents. Stropp is 4-1 on the year, playing all contests at the second spot in the lineup. The Bulldog veteran recently obtained his 80th-career overall victory and 50th-career dual match win last weekend against No. 69 Samford.
In the middle of the Maroon and White lineup is sophomore Jordan Angus, who entered the ITA Singles Rankings for the first time this season at No. 115, and senior Zach White. Angus, much like in 2013, is off to a hot start, putting together an 8-0 record in spring play. White has been a solid fixture in the middle, putting up a 5-2 record, with three of those wins coming in straight sets.
Holding down the five and six spots have been the trio of Rishab Agarwal, Robin Haden and Tassilo Schmid. For the year, Agarwal is 6-2, having won his last three matches. Haden has posted a 4-0 record so far in dual match play, with three of those wins coming at the No. 6 position. Playing evenly between the five and six spots is Schmid, who is 4-1 in the spring and 2-0 at the No. 5 position.
Also seeing singles action this year is Egbert Weverink, who captured victory in his first match of the year last weekend against Alcorn State at the sixth spot.
In doubles, the T-55th-ranked team of Angus and Stropp have picked up seven wins for the 2013-14 year and hold down the top spot in MSU’s lineup. A rotation of duos have seen the court for doubles play for the Bulldogs, with the tandems of Agarwal and White (3-0 for the spring) and Lakat and Schmid (3-2 for the spring) the most successful.
The Bulldogs’ opponent, Cal, is led by Ben McLachlan, ranked 62nd in the nation. The senior is 2-2 for the spring in singles play. Also spearheading the Golden Bears’ attack is senior Campbell Johnson, who is 13-4 for the year and is ranked 68th in the latest ITA rankings. Freshman Andre Goransson is Cal’s third ranked singles player, coming in at No. 118.
Following Friday’s action, the Bulldogs will face either top-ranked Virginia or 16th-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday. Win or lose, all teams will play at least three matches in the National Team Indoors this weekend.
For more information on Mississippi State men’s tennis and updates throughout the 2014 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, fans can follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (@HailStateMT), Facebook (HailStateMT) and Instagram (HailStateMT).