Bulldogs Cant, Ilyushin Move Into NCAA Round of 16
ATHENS, Ga. - Mississippi State had another very good day at the NCAA Individual Championships Wednesday as two Bulldogs stayed alive in the singles draw with seniors Louis Cant and Artem Ilyushin claiming victory to advance to Friday's round of 16.
With both Cant and Ilyushin advancing to the round of 16, it marks the first time since 1997 that two Bulldogs have advanced that far in singles in the same season. Matthieu Ballay and Simon Larose did it that season.
Beginning the day, the 13th-ranked Ilyushin squared off with No. 45 Jonas Lutjen of Ole Miss. Taking a dominant 6-0 first set, Ilyushin would eventually down his Rebel foe 6-0, 6-3 to breeze into the round of 16. Ilyushin, who has yet to lose his serve in the tournament, will face Kentucky's third-ranked and third-seeded Eric Quigley Friday at 11 a.m. ET.
MSU's final singles match of the day came in thrilling fashion where the 50th-ranked Cant rallied in incredible fashion for a come from behind victory over Florida's No. 42 Bob van Overbeek. With the players on serve at 5-4 in the first set, van Overbeek was able to take a break on Cant's serve and claim the first set 6-4. In the second, van Overbeek would hold a 5-3 advantage and served for the match. However, Cant broke back and held serve and then sent the second set to a tiebreaker. Overbeek built a 5-2 lead in the breaker, and serving, but Cant won four straight points to lead 6-5 and went on to claim the tiebreaker 8-6 to force a third set. In the third, the players exchanged holds of serve to start, but Cant then went on a tear, winning the last five games of the match to claim a hard-fought 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-1 comeback victory. Cant is set to play Ole Miss' 14th-ranked Nik Scholtz, a 9-16 seed, at 12:30 p.m. ET Friday.
The win was big for Cant in more than one way. Not only is he into the round of 16, but by advancing there he has earned All-America status for 2012. He became State's 20th All-American in men's tennis, behind Ilyushin who earned it by being named as a top 16 seed in this same event two weeks ago.
In the second singles match of the day for MSU was 56th-ranked George Coupland. Facing a tough second round opponent in Virginia's No. 39 Alex Domijan, Coupland had his hands full as he dropped a tough 6-3 first set. In the second, Domijan proved too much as he downed his Bulldog foe 6-3, 6-2 to end Coupland's hopes in singles for the tournament. Coupland ended the season with a remarkable 29-8 overall singles record.
In first-round doubles action late Thursday night, the 25th-ranked MSU pair of Coupland and Ilyushin squared off against Illinois' 21st-ranked Roy Kalmanovich and Dennis Nevolo. After falling in the first set 6-3, the Bulldog team roared back to take the second in a quick 6-0 decision. In the third, Illinois regained the momentum and went on to a 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 victory.
2012 NCAA Men's Tennis Individual Championships - Singles/Doubles
5/24/12 - Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, Ga.
#13 Artem Ilyushin (MSU) def. #45 Jonas Lutjen (Ole Miss) 6-0, 6-3
#39 Alex Domijan (Virginia) def. #56 George Coupland (MSU) 6-3, 6-2
#50 Louis Cant (MSU) def. #42 Bob van Overbeek (Florida) 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-1
#21 Roy Kalmanovich/Dennis Nevolo (Ilinois) def. #25 Coupland/Ilyushin (MSU) 6-3, 0-6, 6-2