STARKVILLE, Miss. – Under sunny skies and with the rain in the rearview mirror, the 16th-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis Bulldogs (11-4, 1-0) held off a late rally from the No. 37 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6, 0-1) to open SEC play with a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
MSU improves to 29-24 all time against Alabama and has now won the last four meetings. Also, the win gives MSU its fourth-straight win in SEC openers and its 10th-straight win at home overall.
The SEC opener against the visitors from Tuscaloosa, Ala., was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon, but was delayed at the start of singles due to rain, with MSU having taken the doubles point and the lead, 1-0.
State used victories on courts one and two Friday to take the doubles point, with Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp defeating UA’s Becker O’Shaughnessey and Daniil Proskura 8-3 at the top spot to kick things off. MSU’s duo of Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid clinched the point for the Bulldogs, defeating the Tide’s Sean Donohue and Nikko Madregallejo 8-3 on court two.
Singles play started on Friday, but only one first set had finished at the suspension of play, as MSU’s Agarwal led UA’s Donohue 6-0 on court five. When play picked back up Saturday, Agarwal picked up where he left off, defeating Donohue 6-0, 6-3 to earn the match’s only straight-sets victory and hand MSU a 2-0 lead.
UA looked to turn things around on the remaining courts, trying to shift momentum by taking the first set at the two, three, four and six positions. However, the Bulldogs responded by splitting sets on all four of those courts and, paired with UA splitting sets on court one, all remaining matches went to a deciding third.
Alabama answered the MSU 2-0 lead with a victory on court one, as UA’s No. 17 Proskura came back to defeat MSU’s No. 71 Stropp 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. Despite the first strike from Crimson Tide, MSU responded on court three, as the senior White earned a crucial 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory against UA’s Kenyon to put MSU up 3-1.
Play then came down to courts two, four and six, with the Bulldogs needing only one more win to take the team match. After dropping the first on six, MSU freshman Robin Haden roared back in the second to force a final set, but an early break from UA’s Goodwin sealed it and the Crimson Tide’s rally began with the 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win. UA then tied the match with a win on court four, striking late in a third-set tiebreaker, as Madregallejo defeated MSU’s Angus 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(6) to tie the team match at 3-3.
Play then came down to court two, where MSU’s No. 63 Lakat seemed to be in control for most of the final set. After earning a late break, UA’s No. 75 O’Shaughnessey answered with a break back to put things back on serve. However, after holding to go up 6-5, Lakat earned a break in the final game to wrap the match in Maroon and White, winning 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.
“We came out pretty strong in doubles, but they [Alabama] came out strong and jumped on us in singles in a few spots,“ coach Per Nilsson said. “But we came back on every single one of those positions and forced a third set, which I felt was the key to us winning this match.”
MSU Battles No. 31 Auburn Sunday At Home
After winning their fourth-straight SEC opener, the 16th-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis Bulldogs (11-4, 1-0) will conclude the opening weekend of conference play with a 1 p.m. CT battle against No. 28 Auburn (11-4, 1-0) on Sunday, March 2. AU opened SEC action with a 4-2 win at Ole Miss Friday.
The Bulldogs enter Sunday’s match with a 24-20 record against the Tigers, including winning five of the last six matches. Auburn claimed a 4-1 win in the teams’ meeting last weekend at the 2014 Blue Gray National Tennis Classic.
Auburn is led by three ranked players in the singles lineup. No. 118 Lukas Ollert is 6-6 in dual-match play, with four of those wins coming at the No. 1 position. 119th-ranked Daniel Cochrane has seen action at the top three positions for the Tigers this spring, going 9-1. No. 129 Dante Saleh is 9-3 the spring, spending time at the two, three, four and five spots in the order.
For more information on Mississippi State men’s tennis and updates throughout the 2014 Blue Gary National Tennis Classic, fans can follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (@HailStateMT), Facebook (HailStateMT) and Instagram (HailStateMT).
No. 16 Mississippi State 4, No. 37 Alabama 3
March 1, 2014 – A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre – Starkville, Miss.
1) No. 17 Proskura (UA) def. No. 71 Stropp (MSU) 3-6, 6-0, 6-1
2) No. 63 Lakat (MSU) def. No. 75 O’Shaughnessey (UA) 2-6, 6-2, 7-5
3) White (MSU) def. Kenyon (UA) 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
4) Madregallejo (UA) def. Angus (MSU) 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(6)
5) Agarwal (MSU) def. Donohue (UA) 6-0, 6-3
6) Goodwin (UA) def. Robin Haden (MSU) 6-2, 2-6, 6-2
Order of finish… Doubles (1,2)… Singles (5,1,3,6,4,2)