Top 10 Matchups Highlight SEC Home Openers For No. 11 Bulldogs
STARKVILLE, Miss. - A pair of top 10 schools will make their visit to Starkville this weekend, as the 11th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis squad (12-2, 2-0 SEC) welcomes the No. 10 Tennessee Volunteers (13-4, 0-1 SEC) and No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 1-0 SEC) to the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. State will battle Tennessee Friday at 2 p.m. CT and Georgia on Sunday at 1 p.m.
State opened up SEC play last week with a two-match road swing through the state of Alabama. MSU defeated No. 37 Auburn 4-3 and No. 31 Alabama 4-2 to earn their perfect start in the conference.
The Maroon and White are anchored at their top spots by two SEC Player of the Week honorees for the 2013 season, 23rd-ranked Romain Bogaerts (two-time honoree) and 59th-ranked Malte Stropp (one-time honoree).
Bogaerts, one of four MSU freshmen, will lead the Bulldogs into the weekend. The Huppaye, Belgium, native comes in with a 11-2 record for the dual match season and 26-4 overall for 2012-13. Bogaerts holds a 9-2 record at the top spot for MSU and will put a four-match winning streak on the line against some of the SEC's top talent.
Stropp has held the second position for MSU for the majority of the season, with an 11-1 record for the spring and is also riding a four-match winning streak. The Dusseldorf, Germany, has been nearly flawless at the No. 2 position, holding a 9-1 record there.
Holding down the middle of the lineup has been a freshman-senior pair for the Bulldogs. Freshman Jordan Angus comes in with an 11-1 record for the spring after starting 11-0, the best start by an MSU freshman in recorded history. Senior James Chaudry sports a 7-4 record in dual match play, with all seven wins coming at the No. 3 position.
A trio of Bulldogs have rounded out the lineup for the 2013 season. Junior Zach White is 4-2 for the spring, with a perfect 3-0 record at the No. 5 spot. Freshman Stefan Vinti holds a 4-6 record for dual match play, while fellow freshman Pedro Dumont is 6-4 for the season.
In doubles, State is led by the No. 24 duo of Angus and Stropp. The tandem is 6-6 for the spring, with four victories against ranked opponents, including defeating the No. 1 nationally ranked duo of Dan Cochrane and Andreas Mies of Auburn last weekend. The victory was the first time an MSU duo has defeated the nation's No. 1 doubles team since 2001, when Romain Ambert and Marco Baron defeated Georgia's No. 1 Matias Boeker and Travis Parrott 8-0.
Following behind is the MSU duo of White and Ethan Wilkinson (5-6 for the spring) and Bogaerts and Dumont (6-2 for the spring).
Tennessee enters the weekend with six of their 13 victories coming against ranked opponents and will be led by a trio of highly-ranked players: No. 13 Mikelis Libietis, No. 33 Hunter Reese and No. 76 Brandon Fickey. The Volunteers also sport three ranked doubles squads, including No. 28 Libietis and John Collins, No. 34 Collins and Edward Jones and No. 40 Chaplin and Libietis.
Georgia goes into the weekend (plays at No. 9 Ole Miss Friday) on a four-match winning streak, with seven of their nine total wins against ranked opponents. Four ranked players make up the UGA lineup, including No. 11 KU Singh, No. 42 Nathan Pasha, No. 72 Hernus Pieters and No. 95 Ben Wagland. In doubles, the Bulldogs from Athens have three ranked doubles teams, with No. 6 Pieters and Wagland, No. 23 Pasha and Singh and No. 32 Garrett Brasseaux and Pasha.
"We have four important home matches in a row coming up and we're hoping to get some good crowds even though it's spring break," head coach Per Nilsson said. "The matches are going to be great and if we play well, we have a great chance of coming out of this weekend with two wins."
State will host another round of top 20 conference opponents next weekend. The Bulldogs will face No. 19 Vanderbilt Friday, Mar. 15, at 2 p.m., and No. 5 Kentucky Sunday, Mar. 17, at 1 p.m., both at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on campus.