STARKVILLE, Miss. - With a trip to Seattle, Wash., on the line, the No. 11 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (4-0) pulled off a thrilling 4-3 victory against the No. 21 Auburn Tigers (4-1) Sunday afternoon at the Pitts Tennis Centre.
The win, which came on the heels of State's 7-0 blanking of No. 25 LSU Saturday, sends the Bulldogs to the ITA Men's National Team Indoor Championship for the first time since 1999. This year's event will be held in Seattle at the University of Washington, Feb. 15-18, where 16 of the nation's top teams, who advanced this weekend, will collide.
The epic battle Sunday on campus would prove to be nothing short of a classic top 25 college tennis matchup.
After the teams had battled to a 3-3 tie after three-and-a-half hours, the match was finally decided at the top spot, which pitted MSU's No. 25 Romain Bogaerts, a true freshman, against Auburn's No. 74 Andreas Mies, a senior.
Bogaerts had fought hard and claimed the first set 7-5. Mies fought back in the second, even serving for the set at 5-3. However, the MSU freshman broke back and sent the match to a tiebreaker at 6-6. Mies jumped out quickly in the breaker, going up 4-1 and putting Bogaerts and the Bulldogs on their heels. Without flinching, the MSU freshman climbed back into the match and fought off two set points to tie it at 6-6. From there, Bogaerts took the match 7-5, 7-6(6) from the talented senior.
"I just wanted to win so bad," Bogaerts said on his battle with Mies. "I was just focused on winning every point and fighting 'til the very end."
While Bogaerts supplied the exiting finish for MSU, a long afternoon battle between the two teams unfolded to set up the finale.
Auburn jumped out in front early by capturing the doubles point. On court two, the MSU pair of Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson dropped their match to AU's Dennis Lengsfeld and Lucas Lopasso 8-2. On court three, the freshmen duo of Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont cruised to an easy 8-3 victory against their Auburn counterparts Lukas Ollert and Joseph Van Dooren.
That setup the first dramatic finish of the day at No. 1, where the No. 28 MSU duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp fought back and forth with the nation's second-ranked tandem of Dan Cochrane and Mies, but fell in a tough tiebreaker 8-7(3).
In singles action, Auburn took a 2-0 lead when Ollert defeated MSU's James Chaudry 6-3, 6-1 at the No. 3 position. State then reeled off three-straight wins for a 3-2 lead.
The MSU freshman Angus would respond with a dominating victory against AU's Lengsfeld 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 4 spot. Following Angus' win, his doubles partner, No. 81 Stropp would also cruise to victory in a 6-4, 6-2 win against Auburn's Cochrane on court two. After taking the first set, the MSU freshman Dumont grinded out an impressive 6-3, 7-5 victory against AU's lone freshman, Van Dooren, at No. 6.
Auburn's Lucas Lopasso then evened the score at 3-3, rallying from a set down to oust Bulldog rookie Stefan Vinti 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 at the No. 5 spot.
"That was a great comeback after losing the doubles point, especially being such a young team" head coach Per Nilsson said. "We are starting to come together nicely as a team and starting to work for each other."
Before heading to Seattle for the National indoors, the Bulldogs have more business to attend to in the Magnolia State. MSU will return to action Thursday, February 7, when they face 13th-ranked arch rival Ole Miss in the River Hills Cup in Jackson, Miss., at 5 p.m. at River Hills Club.
State then returns to campus on Sunday, February 10, to host a double header against South Alabama and Tennessee Tech.
For more information on Mississippi State men's tennis, follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mstatemt) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mstatemt).
No. 11 Mississippi State 4, No. 21 Auburn 3
January 27, 2013 - A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre - Starkville, Miss.
1) No. 2 Dan Cochrane/Andreas Mies (AU) def. No. 28 Jordan Angus/Malte Stropp (MSU) 8-7(3)
2) Dennis Lengsfeld/Lucas Lopasso (AU) def. Zach White/Ethan Wilkinson (MSU) 8-2
3) Romain Bogaerts/Pedro Dumont (MSU) def. Lukas Ollert/Joseph Van Dooren 8-3
1) No. 25 Bogaerts (MSU) def. No. 74 Mies (AU) 7-5, 7-6(6)
2) No. 81 Stropp (MSU) def. Cochrane (AU) 6-4, 6-2
3) Ollert (AU) def. James Chaudry (MSU) 6-3, 6-1
4) Angus (MSU) def. Lengsfeld (AU) 6-3, 6-3
5) Lucas Lopasso (AU) def. Stefan Vinti (MSU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-1
6) Dumont (MSU) def. Van Dooren (AU) 6-3, 7-5
Order of finish... Doubles (2,3)... Singles (3,4,2,6,5,1)