STARKVILLE, Miss. – Behind strong performances on the court which led to the Mississippi State Bulldogs earning their fourth-straight NCAA Championship appearance, assistant coach Matt Roberts and freshman Florian Lakat have both earned 2014 ITA Southern Region honors, the ITA announced Tuesday.
Lakat continues his stellar freshman campaign by being named the ITA Southern Region Rookie of the Year. Lakat is the fifth Bulldog to receive the honor all-time and gives State the award for the third time in the last four seasons.
"I am really proud to receive this award,” Lakat said. “It is the result of all the hard work I've put in all year, but it would not have been possible without my teammates and my coaches."
The Paris, France, native, who was also named 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year, has put together 22 wins on the season, with 16 coming in dual match play. Lakat downed a total of seven ranked foes on the year, while also earning an 11-2 record against Southern Region opponents, tying fellow Bulldog Jordan Angus for most regional wins on the year.
In doubles, Lakat garnered 14 wins, with 10 of those coming in the spring with teammate Tassilo Schmid. Seven of those 14 wins came at the No. 2 spot in the lineup, while the duo was also a perfect 3-0 in matches played at the top spot this spring. The Bulldog team also clinched a team-leading nine doubles points for the Bulldogs this season.
Roberts was named the ITA Southern Region Assistant Coach of the Year, making him the third assistant in MSU history to earn the award. The second-year assistant joins former Bulldog coaches Michael Metz and Matt Hill, who earned the honor in 2005 and 2011, respectively.
“I’m extremely honored to receive this award, but all the credit goes to this team for making it easy to coach them,” Roberts said. “All the hard work they put in, from practice to the actual matches, is unreal. They have a great approach to learning new things on and off the court and consistently show desire for improvement."
Coming to State last season after three seasons as an assistant at Michigan State, Roberts has been instrumental in the Maroon and White maintaining their position in the national spotlight of collegiate tennis. For the 2014 campaign, Roberts assisted head coach Per Nilsson in leading the Bulldogs to their fourth-straight NCAA Championship appearance, while also earning 19 wins on the season, which ties for seventh all time in overall season wins. Under the former All-SEC star’s leadership, MSU defeated 13 ranked opponents, including their first win against Georgia since 2005.
Individually, Roberts’ coaching and developmental skills has been crucial in State sending the doubles team of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp to the NCAA Doubles Championship for the second-straight year, while also landing Lakat as a first alternate for the NCAA Singles Championship. He also assists with making sure MSU’s tennis student-athletes are doing the right things in the classroom. The Bulldog tennis squad continues to excel with numerous ITA Scholar Athlete and Academic All-SEC honors each season. Roberts has also assisted with the MSU “Breakfast for Champions” community service initiative.
“Matt [Roberts] and Florian [Lakat] have both played a major role in helping our team continue to progress,” Nilsson said. “I'm extremely grateful for the hard work Matt puts in every day and he is well deserving of this award. As for Florian, he is getting better every week and we are excited about his potential to become a top college player. ”
Despite the team’s season coming to a close last weekend in the NCAA Second Round, 2014 is not finished for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will head to Athens, Ga., for the 2014 NCAA Individual Championships. The 17th-ranked duo of Jordan Angus and Matle Stropp will compete in doubles play, while Lakat is a first alternate for the singles draw. Singles play will begin on Wednesday, May 21, while doubles competition will start on Thursday, May 22. The draws for both brackets will be announced following the 2014 NCAA Team Championship finals, May 16-20.