OXFORD, Miss. – Rarely is there anything more exciting in college athletics than rivalry affairs. Sunday in Oxford proved to be no different, as the 17th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (17-7, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) defeated in-state rival No. 48 Ole Miss (8-10, 3-6 SEC) 4-2 in a tight men’s tennis match at UM’s Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
The win gave the Bulldogs their second-straight win in Oxford against the Rebels, as they downed Ole Miss 4-3 there in 2012. State also matched its number of SEC wins from last season with six, with three matches still remaining in the regular season. The Bulldogs stand fourth overall in the SEC entering the final two weekends of competition.
Ole Miss gained the early advantage Sunday, taking doubles point with wins on courts two and three. The Rebels earned an 8-4 victory from Ricardo Jorge and Nik Scholtz against MSU’s Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid on court two to begin play. State answered with a victory on court one, as the 63rd-ranked duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp defeated UM’s No. 75 team of William Kallberg and Stefan Lindmark 8-7(5) to level the score.
The doubles point then came down to court three, where MSU’s Rishab Agarwal and Zach White battled UM’s Johan Backstrom and Joe Rogers. Down a break late in the match, the Bulldog tandem broke to put the match back on serve, eventually forcing a tiebreaker. However, Ole Miss took the match in the breaker, 8-7(1) to give the Rebels the early 1-0 lead.
Despite being down, the Bulldogs responded strongly in singles play to try and spark a rally. MSU’s 114th-ranked Stropp put on a dominating show on court two. Taking on UM’s No. 102 Kallberg, the senior Bulldog put his foot on the gas and never let up, putting a six-match losing streak to rest with a dominating 6-1, 6-0 win to tie the match at 1-1.
Ole Miss responded on court four, as Backstrom defeated MSU’s White 6-1, 6-0, putting the Rebels back out in front 2-1. The Bulldogs responded again in the back-and-forth match, as Angus earned a solid straight-sets win against Lindmark at No. 3, winning 6-4, 6-4 to once again tie the match. The Maroon and White then earned its first lead of the match, as Agarwal handled UM’s Jorge 6-3, 6-3 on court 5 to put the Bulldogs out in front 3-2.
The match then came down to courts one and six, where State forced third third sets after losing the first at both positions. Needing two matches to claim the win, Ole Miss looked to be in good shape on court one, where No. 16 Scholtz led No. 67 Lakat of MSU 5-3 and a break in the third. Despite being down, Lakat would not be deterred, as he fought off eight match points from Scholtz in the next game to stay in the match.
As Lakat kept his match going, Schmid took care of business in the third set, dominating the final frame en route to a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1 victory against UM’s Vinod Gowda on No. 6, clinching the big win for the Bulldogs.
“Extremely proud of our guys for coming out and fighting for a big win on the road. It’s always tough to win in the SEC and especially against your rivals, so this was a great win for our team.”
Of note individually for the Bulldogs, Stropp moved into a tie for fifth place with former MSU stars Rene-Charles Combette (2000-03) and Louis Cant (2009-12) in career doubles wins at MSU with 77. Stropp’s singles win also moved him within one of entering the top 10 at MSU in career wins (singles and doubles combined).
The Bulldogs return to action next Friday, as they enter a home-away weekend in SEC play. State will host No. 15 Florida on Friday, April 4, at 2 p.m. CT, at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre in a doubleheader that will also feature the MSU women’s tennis squad, who will take on No. 4 Florida following the men’s match. State will then hit the road for a Sunday showdown against No. 36 South Carolina, April 6 at 12 p.m. CT.
No. 17 Mississippi State 4, No. 48 Ole Miss 2
March 30, 2014 – Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center – Oxford, Miss.
1. No. 16 Scholtz (UM) vs. No. 67 Lakat (MSU) 6-3, 2-6, 5-4(susp.)
2. No. 114 Stropp (MSU) def. No. 102 Kallberg (UM) 6-1, 6-0
3. Angus (MSU) def. Lindmark (UM) 6-4, 6-4
4. Backstrom (UM) def. White (MSU) 6-1, 6-0
5. Agarwal (MSU) def. Jorge (UM) 6-3, 6-3
6. Schmid (MSU) def. Vinod Gowda (UM) 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1
Order of finish… Doubles (2,1,3)… Singles (2,4,3,5,6)