URBANA, Ill. – After three days filled with traveling, practices and hours of preparation, the stage is finally set. The 10th-ranked and No. 10 national seed Mississippi State men’s tennis squad (18-9) will battle the sixth-ranked and No. 7 national seed Tennessee Volunteers (28-5) Thursday for the right to advance to the 2013 NCAA quarterfinals. Thursday’s match is set to begin at 12 p.m. CT at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center.
The two teams will face off for the second time this season, as the Volunteers edged the Bulldogs 4-2 in Starkville earlier in the year. However, State has claimed three of the last four matchups and will look to grab their fourth victory against the Vols in the Per Nilsson era on Thursday. If the Bulldogs advance, it would be the program’s first national quarterfinal showing since 1998.
The Bulldogs are headlined by the freshman-junior combo of sixth-ranked Romain Bogaerts and 57th-ranked Malte Stropp, who have been a mainstay atop the MSU lineup. The Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, Bogaerts has 28 wins on the 2012-13 season, with a 15-6 record in dual match play. Stropp, an All-SEC Second Team selection, is 15-7 this spring and is one win away from collecting his 70th career victory.
Senior James Chaudry and freshman Jordan Angus fortify the middle of the Bulldogs lineup, having both seen major time at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions. Chaudry, who has won his last four matches, has 12 victories this spring and is one win from earning win No. 50 of his career. Angus goes into Thursday’s match having put together a team-leading 17 dual match victories and 22 for the overall season, which stands second on the team.
Rounding out the MSU lineup is Zach White and Pedro Dumont, who have fortified the bottom half of the MSU lineup. At the No. 5 spot, White, one of two MSU juniors, has collected eight wins for the spring, with six of them coming in the grueling SEC. At the final spot, freshman Dumont has won his last seven matches and has accumulated 20 wins for the 2012-13 campaign.
In doubles, the Bulldogs are led by the No. 13 duo of Angus and Stropp. The two have won ten matches this spring, with six coming against ranked opponents. Rounding out doubles is Dumont and Ethan Wilkinson at the No. 2 spot and Bogaerts and White at the No. 3 position.
The top-ranked singles player and the No. 1 doubles squad in the nation will lead the Volunteers into Thursday’s match. No. 1 Mikelis Libietis and No. 34 Hunter Reese top the Tennessee singles lineup, both combining for 38 wins this spring. The nation’s No. 1 tandem of Libietis and Reese leads the way for Tennessee on the doubles court, along with No. 34 John Collins and Edward Jones.
Should the Bulldogs advance, they will face the winner of No. 3 and 2nd-seeded Virginia and No. 18 California, who also face off Thursday at 12 p.m. CT. The national quarterfinal match would take place Saturday, May 18, at 12 p.m. CT.
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). Full details on the 2013 NCAA Championship finals at Illinois can be found at http://www.fightingillini.com/ncaatennis2013/.