STARKVILLE, Miss. – Starting off Southeastern Conference play 2-0 for the third-straight season, the 17th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-4, 2-0) are set for their first road conference tests of the season, taking on the 16th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (5-5, 1-0) and the 13th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (11-4, 0-1) this weekend.
State will travel to Athens, Ga., on Friday, March 7, to take on the Bulldogs in a 1 p.m. CT matchup and then will move on to Knoxville, Tenn., to battle the Vols in a Sunday, March 9, match at 12 p.m. CT.
The Bulldogs continue to use of experience and youth to lead their lineup, with senior Malte Stropp, ranked 71st, and freshman Florian Lakat, ranked 63rd, at the top of the order. Stropp, who has taken over the No. 1 position in the lineup, has put together 13 wins for the 2013-14 campaign, with five ranked victories. Lakat, who was recently named SEC Freshman of the Week for a third time this season, has gotten his collegiate career off to a great start, with 16 overall victories and 10 in dual match play. Nearly half of the freshman’s wins in the spring have come against ranked foes.
In the middle for the Bulldogs is the duo of senior Zach White and sophomore Jordan Angus. White has earned nine victories for the season while seeing time at the two, three and four spots in the lineup and is one win away from earning his 60th career singles win. Angus has strung together 10 wins this spring while also seeing time at several positions throughout the MSU lineup.
Anchoring the Bulldogs at the bottom have been a number of newcomers. Freshman Rishab Agarwal has held down the No. 5 position for most of the spring, putting together a 9-4 record so far. Freshman Robin Haden (4-1 in dual match play) and junior Tassilo Schmid (5-3 in dual match play) have split time at the No. 6 position during the spring, with freshman Egbert Weverink going 1-0 in his only appearance of 2014.
In doubles play, State is led by the tandem of Angus and Stropp, who are 7-3 this spring and have won their last four matches. With last weekend’s doubles victories, Stropp moved past current coach Per Nilsson for 7th place in the MSU all-time career doubles wins with 74. Rounding out the MSU doubles order are the duos of Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid, who have five wins this spring, and Rishab Agarwal and Zach White, who are 7-1 in dual match play.
UGA will throw out a total of five ranked singles players and one ranked doubles squad Friday. Austin Smith (16th), Nathan Pasha (30th), Ben Wagland (66th), Garrett Brasseaux (76th) and Nick Wood (100th) lead the way in singles action for the opposing Bulldogs, while the 14th-ranked team of Wagland and Hernus Pieters headline doubles play.
For the Volunteers on Sunday, a pair of ranked singles players and a ranked doubles squad will be showcased. Hunter Reese, ranked 21st, and Mikelis Libietis, ranked 32nd, top the Vols singles order, with the two also pairing together to form the No. 2 doubles team in the nation.
Following this weekend’s action, the Bulldogs will continue their SEC road trip, as they travel Lexington, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. MSU will face No. 22 Kentucky on Friday, March 14, at 1 p.m. CT, followed by a Sunday, March 16, battle against No. 18 Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. CT.