STARKVILLE, Miss. – The 52nd-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis team will serve up the postseason against No. 32 Vanderbilt Commodores in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament played at the Downing Center in Lexington, Ky. MSU (9-11, 2-8 SEC) is coming off a 4-1 road loss to its in-state rival No. 19 Ole Miss, while Vandy (13-9, 5-6 SEC) is fresh off a 7-0 shutout loss No. 12 Kentucky.
The Bulldogs faced Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this season, slipping up to the Commodores, 5-2. In that match which occurred this past Mar. 7, State was swept in the doubles point for the first time of the season. With the score at 3-2, Vanderbilt clinched the match at the No. 6 spot. Sophomores Artem Ilyushin and Daniel Sanchez earned MSU’s two-points by defeating Bryant Salcedo and Adam Baker of the Commodores, while sophomore Louis Cant dropped a heartbreaking third-set tiebreaker at the No. 1 position to Ryan Lipman, which was Cant’s first setback of the dual match season.
“The last match with Vandy was a close one,” said third-year head coach Per Nilsson. “I fully expect this match to be close as well, but we are playing good tennis and hope we come out on top this time around.”
MState is 31-11 all-time against Vanderbilt, but has dropped three-straight to the Commodores. The Bulldogs have faced Vandy four times in the SEC Tournament and are a perfect 4-0 against the Dores in the conference postseason event. Last time State and Vanderbilt met in the SEC Tournament was in 2007 when the Bulldogs advanced with a 4-0 victory over Vandy.
MSU is led by 61st-ranked Cant, who boasts 10 dual match victories, but is currently on a three-match skid. Also ranked for the Maroon and White is No. 109 sophomore George Coupland. Coupland posted a .500 record in the SEC during the regular season and is a winner in three of his previous four matches.
Junior Antonio Lastre of MState has a team-best 11 dual match wins, while sophomore Daniel Sanchez team-best winning percentage (77.0 %) in dual match play and is currently riding a three-match win streak. MSU’s Ilyushin has also notched double-digit dual match wins with 10, including three SEC wins.
In doubles, the Bulldogs are paced by 35th-ranked duo Coupland and Ilyushin, who have totaled 11 wins this season, including seven conference victories. Coupland and Ilyushin are an impressive 6-2 versus ranked opponents this season. MSU’s tandem of Cant and senior Chris Doerr were an impressive 14-4 in dual match action and 8-2 in league play. Cant and Doerr are currently riding a five-match win streak.
Vanderbilt is led by No. 32 nationally ranked Lipman, who was 12-9 in the regular season from the No. 1 position including 6-5 in the SEC. Commodore Alex Zotov has a team-best 14 dual match wins, but is currently on a three-match skid. Three other Commodores have notched double-digit wins this season with Baker leading the way with 13 wins followed by Vijay Paul and Salcedo with 11.
The Commodores boast three-ranked doubles teams, led by No. 43 Vandy tandem Baker and Charlie Jones. Baker and Zotov are ranked 61st followed by No. 79 duo Lipman and Paul.
The No. 10 seed Bulldogs and seventh-seeded Commodores will face off at noon CT and live stats will be available at www.mstateathletics.com. The winner of the match will face No. 2 seed Florida the next day at noon.