STARKVILLE, Miss. – Fresh off the program’s first top-five victory since 2011, the 11th-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis Bulldogs (9-2) will open the 2014 Blue Gray National Tennis Classic against the No. 37 VCU Rams (8-4) Friday, Feb. 21. at 11 a.m. CT.
The 2014 trip to Montgomery, Ala., will be the first since the Bulldogs traveled to the 2012 Blue Gray, defeating No. 59 Cornell, No. 44 Boise State and No. 23 Texas Tech en route to capturing the tourney championship. Friday’s matchup will also mark the fourth meeting in history between the Bulldogs and the Rams. VCU leads the series 2-1, including a 4-3 victory in the last meeting in 2009.
A total of eight teams make up the Blue Gray field, including the Bulldogs, who hold the highest ranking of all participants. Following Friday’s play, State will either face No. 28 Auburn or No. 55 Texas Tech on Saturday. No. 21 Clemson, No. 36 Alabama, No. 41 Boise State and No. 60 Princeton make up the rest of the field.
MSU’s attack will be spearheaded by a combination of youth and experience at the top of the lineup. Freshman Florian Lakat, ranked 52nd in the nation, is 8-3 on the season, with all matches coming at the top spot. At the No. 2 position, 49th-ranked senior Malte Stropp continues to build his legacy in the Maroon and White, with 80-career singles victories and 70-career doubles wins.
The men in the middle of State’s order are sophomore Jordan Angus, ranked 115th, and senior Zach White. Angus kicked off 2014 with an 8-0 start and has compiled 35 total wins in his young Bulldog career. White, the other senior on State’s 2014 squad, picked up a huge victory to close out the 2014 ITA National Team Indoors, clinching MSU’s win over No. 4 Georgia.
Rounding out the Bulldog lineup is a combo of four of State’s five newcomers. Freshman Rishab Agarwal has been solid at the five spot, going 6-3. Junior Tassilo Schmid has played mostly at the No. 6 position for the spring, going 5-2 in dual match play. Also seeing time in MSU’s lineup is freshmen Robin Haden, who is 4-0 this spring, and Egbert Weverink, who earned a straight-set victory in his only match of the season.
Atop the MSU doubles lineup is the 55th-ranked duo of Angus and Stropp, who is 9-5 for the overall year and on a three-match winning streak. The team of Lakat and Schmid has held down the No. 2 doubles spot, breaking even at 4-4 for the spring. Possibly most impressive of all the doubles squads is the tandem of Agarwal and White, who have started off 2014 an impressive 5-0.
Following this weekend’s trip to Montgomery, the Bulldogs will return to the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre to kick off SEC play against two of their possible Blue Gray opponents. State will host Alabama Friday, Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. CT, and Auburn Sunday, March 2, at 1 p.m. CT.
For more information on Mississippi State men’s tennis and updates throughout the 2014 Blue Gray National Tennis Classic, fans can follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (@HailStateMT), Facebook (HailStateMT) and Instagram (HailStateMT).