STARKVILLE, Miss. – Returning back to the friendly confines of the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre for the first time in three weeks, the 22nd-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis team (14-7, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) defeated league foe LSU (9-9, 0-6) 4-1 Friday afternoon in a tough battle with the Tigers.
MSU has now won five-straight matches against the Tigers, including the last four in Starkville. The win also gives the Maroon and White their 12th-straight win at home and a 9-0 start at home for the 2014 season, the best start since the 1998 squad went 11-0 in home matches.
The Tigers started off the match by taking an intense doubles point for the early lead. LSU struck first with an 8-5 victory from Justin Butsch and Chris Simpson against MSU’s Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid on court two. The Bulldogs knotted up doubles play on court three, where the Bulldog duo of Rishab Agarwal and Zach White defeated LSU’s Boris Arias and Eric Perez 8-4, leaving the doubles point to be decided at the top spot.
MSU’s 40th-ranked team of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp and LSU’s Andrew Korinek and Tam Trinh battled back and forth late in the match, with the Tiger tandem erasing a break lead by Angus and Stropp en route to forcing a deciding tiebreaker. The two squads entered an intense battle, with the Tigers’ Korinek and Trinh pulling out an 8-7(7) victory to give LSU the early 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs would not be deterred after dropping the doubles point. State fired back in singles, starting off with a straight-sets victory from Schmid on court six, who defeated LSU’s Harrison Kennedy 6-4, 6-2 to tie the match at 1-1. MSU then took a 2-1 lead thanks to Agarwal on court five, where he defeated the Tigers’ Trinh 6-4, 6-4 in a solid win.
LSU looked to turn the tide against the Bulldogs, putting up fights on several courts. Despite an attempt at a rally on court one from the Tigers, MSU’s 69th-ranked Lakat earned a crucial break late against LSU’s No. 62 Simpson to secure a 6-4, 7-5 victory to give MSU a commanding 3-1 lead.
The Tigers did manage one point in singles - on court two - as Arias defeated MSU’s Stropp, ranked 91st nationally, to pull within one of the Bulldogs.
However, State’s Angus shut the door on the Tigers, outlasting Korinek 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 on court four to clinch the match for MSU. Play on court three was suspended at the clinch, with MSU’s White up 7-6(8), 3-4.
“We knew it was going to be tough, because LSU had nothing to lose,” coach Per Nilsson said. “We came in thinking this is a match we should win and, in the SEC, that’s dangerous. But, our guys came out fast in singles and that helped us out big time.”
Mississippi State returns to action on Sunday, finishing off its weekend home stand with a Sunday, March 23, doubleheader at the Pitts Tennis Centre. The Bulldogs kick off play against No. 71 Arkansas (8-7, 1-5 SEC) at 1 p.m. CT, and close out the day against Nicholls State (9-7) at 5 p.m.
No. 22 Mississippi State 4, LSU 2
March 21, 2014 – A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre – Starkville, Miss.
1. No. 69 Lakat (MSU) def. No. 62 Simpson (LSU) 6-4, 7-5
2. Arias (LSU) def. No. 91 Stropp (MSU) 7-6(7), 6-2
3. White (MSU) vs. Butsch (LSU) 7-6(8), 3-4, susp.
4. Angus (MSU) def. Korinek (LSU) 7-5, 1-6, 7-5
5. Agarwal (MSU) def. Trinh (LSU) 6-4, 6-4
6. Schmid (MSU) def. Harrison Kennedy (LSU) 6-4, 6-2
Order of finish… Doubles (2,3,1)… Singles (6,5,1,2,4)