TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - In a notoriously tough battle in Southeastern Conference matches, the No. 10 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (12-2, 2-0 SEC) defeated No. 31 Alabama (9-5, 0-2 SEC) 4-2 Sunday afternoon to sweep its opening weekend of conference play.
Looking for their third straight SEC West crown, the Maroon and White now return home for a crucial four-match stretch of SEC play at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre, during which State will host four top 25 teams, and three in the top 10 nationally. The Bulldogs will entertain No. 8 Tennessee (March 8, 2 p.m.) and No. 9 Georgia (March 10, 1 p.m.) next weekend, before welcoming No. 25 Vanderbilt (March 15, 2 p.m.) and No. 6 Kentucky (March 17, 1 p.m.) the following weekend.
With Sunday's win, State won its third consecutive match against Alabama and improved to 28-24 all-time, and 13-11 on the road, against the Crimson Tide.
Alabama took an early lead after clinching the doubles point with wins on courts one and two. UA's top duo of Jarryd Botha and David Veiyra upset MSU's No. 24 tandem of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp 8-5 to start doubles play. The Crimson Tide then clinched the point with an 8-6 victory on court two from their duo of Becker O'Shaughnessey and Daniil Proskura against State's Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson.
Play on court three was abandoned, with UA's Philippe Tsangarides and Stuart Kenyon leading MSU's Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont 8-7.
With play turning to singles, State would need four victories to sweep their SEC-opening road trip. The Bulldogs came out firing, taking the first set on all courts except for No. 2.
MSU freshman Stefan Vinti made quick work of his opponent, UA's Tsangarides, defeating him 6-3, 6-0 on court four to level the team score at 1-1. MSU's top singles player, No. 23 Bogaerts, defeated the Crimson Tide's Proskura 6-1, 6-4 to then give the Bulldogs the lead.
Following soon after was a 6-1, 7-6(1) victory from Bulldog freshman Dumont against UA's Kenyon. The win put MSU up 3-1 with a chance to clinch on either courts two, three or five, but the Crimson Tide would not go down without a fight, as the final three contests of the day all went to third sets.
On court two, State's No. 93 James Chaudry battled back-and-forth with No. 100 Botha. Botha took the first set 6-4, but the MSU senior would answer back in a strong manner, taking the second 6-3. The two would fight to a 3-3 tie before Botha went on to take the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to cut the MSU lead to 3-2.
On court five, MSU's White battled Vieyra of Alabama. White took the first easily and held a 5-3 lead in the second before Vieyra came back to force a final set. The two traded games, eventually ending up in a third-set tiebreake. As it was all match, the two clashed for an exciting finish, with White finally taking the win 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), clinching the win for MSU.
Play on court three was suspended once the match was clinched, with UA's O'Shaughnessey leading MSU's Angus 6-7(6), 7-5, 5-3.
"The team did a great job bouncing back after losing the doubles point," head coach Per Nilsson said. "We built a big lead, but let a few of them slip away. We were fortunate to get out of there with a win. Now we need a really good week of practice to get ready for next weekend."
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No. 10 Mississippi State 4, No. 31 Alabama 2
March 3, 2013 - Alabama Tennis Complex - Tuscaloosa, Ala.
1) Jarryd Botha/David Vieyra (UA) def. No. 24 Jordan Angus/Malte Stropp (MSU) 8-5
2) Becker O'Shaughnessey/Daniil Proskura (UA) def. Zach White/Ethan Wilkinson (MSU) 8-6
3) Stuart Kenyon/Philippe Tsangarides (UA) vs. Romain Bogaerts/Pedro Dumont (MSU) 8-7 (susp.)
1) No. 23 Bogaerts (MSU) def. Proskura (UA) 6-1, 6-4
2) No. 100 Botha (UA) def. No. 93 Chaudry (MSU) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
3) No. 85 O'Shaughnessey (UA) vs. Angus (MSU) 6-7(6), 7-5, 5-3 (susp.)
4) Stefan Vinti (MSU) def. Tsangarides (UA) 6-3, 6-0
5) White (MSU) def. Vieyra (UA) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5)
6) Dumont (MSU) def. Kenyon (UA) 6-1, 7-6(1)
Order of finish... Doubles (1,2)... Singles (4,1,6,2,5)