LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 52nd-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament with a first-round shutout over No. 32 Vanderbilt, 4-0. The Bulldogs were tabbed as the 10-seed in the tournament and advanced to quarterfinal play for the first time since 2007 as they improved to 10-11 on the season.
The win avenged a 5-2 loss earlier in the season at Vanderbilt and snapped a three-match skid to the Commodores. MSU is now 5-0 all-time when facing Vandy in the SEC postseason tournament. This was the third time all season the Bulldogs shutout their opponent and the first time they’ve shutout a conference foe since they defeated Vanderbilt, 4-0, in the first round of the 2007 SEC Tournament.
MSU picked up early momentum by claiming the doubles point; it was the 13th time this season that State has won the doubles point and the fifth time in its previous six matches. At the No. 1 position, 35th-ranked Bulldog tandem improved to 7-2 when facing ranked opponents by defeating No. 61 Vandy duo Adam Baker and Alex Zotov, 8-3. Vanderbilt evened the score in the bid for the early point with a win at court two, where MSU’s Daniel Sanchez and Tanner Stump dropped their second-straight match with an 8-5 setback to Ryan Lipman and Bryant Salcedo of Vanderbilt. MSU would clinch the point at the No. 3 spot when Louis Cant and Chris Doerr of MState claimed a 7-2 tiebreaker decision to win the match over Alex DiValerio and Vijay Paul, 9-8(2).
MSU jumped out to a quick lead in singles, winning the opening set on all six courts. State’s Ilyushin was the first to win with a straight-set victory at the No. 3 slot over Zotov of the Commodores, 6-3, 6-2. It was the 20th overall win of the season for the sophomore from Granite Bay, Calif.
Riding the wave of momentum, Bulldog sophomore Sanchez defeated Vandy’s Baker in straight sets as well, 6-2, 6-3, giving MState a 3-0 lead. Sanchez is now a winner of four-straight and an impressive 11-3 in dual match play.
For the first time in his career Coupland clinched for the Maroon and White, winning a two-set bout against 32nd-nationally ranked Lipman of the Commodores, 7-6(2), 6-4. Lipman was the second-highest ranked opponent Coupland has defeated in his young career.
“The guys played a great match today,” said third-year head coach Per Nilsson. “In doubles the ball bounced our way a couple of times and we came away with the point. In singles we really started well and played with a lot of confidence. We’re excited about our chance to play against tomorrow.”
State turns its focus now to the two seed and No. 6 nationally ranked Florida Gators. Florida is 17-3 on the season and finished 9-1 in league play. They are coached by former Bulldog headman Andy Jackson, who coached MSU from 1989-2001.
The match scheduled earlier this season between MSU and Florida was not played due rain.
The Gators boast two nationally ranked players led by fifth-ranked Alex Lacroix, followed by No. 113 Joey Burkhardt. In doubles the Gators have two teams ranked with Lacroix and Antoine Benneteau standing at 14th nationally followed by Burkhardt and Sekou Bangoura Jr. ranking 51st.
MSU and Florida are set to serve up their SEC quarterfinal match at the Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Ky., at 12 p.m. CT. Live stats will be available at www.mstateathletics.com.
#52 MISSISSIPPI STATE 4, #32 VANDERBILT 0
Lexington, Ky. – 4/22/10
No. 1 – #35 George Coupland/Artem Ilyushin (MSU) def. #61 Adam Baker/Alex Zotov (Vanderbilt) 8-3; No. 2 – Ryan Lipman/Bryant Salcedo (Vanderbilt) def. Daniel Sanchez/Tanner Stump (MSU) 8-5; No. 3 – Louis Cant/Chris Doerr (MSU) def. Alex DiValerio/Vijay Paul (Vanderbilt) 9-8(2); (Order of Finish: 1,2,3).
No. 1 – #109 Coupland (MSU) def. #32 Lipman (Vanderbilt) 7-6(2), 6-4; No. 2 – #62 Cant (MSU) vs. Paul (Vanderbilt) 6-2, 2-6, susp.; No. 3 – Ilyushin (MSU) def. Zotov (Vanderbilt) 6-3, 6-2; No. 4 – Antonio Lastre (MSU) vs. Salcedo (Vanderbilt) 6-4, 6-6(3-2), susp.; No. 5 – Sanchez (MSU) def. Baker (Vanderbilt) 6-2, 6-3; No. 6 – Max Gregor (MSU) vs. DiValerio (Vanderbilt) 6-1, 4-5, susp.; (Order of Finish: 3,5,1).