URBANA, Ill. – Just as it was earlier in the season, the matchup between the No. 10 and 10th-seeded Mississippi State men’s tennis squad and the No. 6 and seventh-seeded Tennessee Volunteers Thursday was a thriller. However, the Bulldogs (18-10) could not pull out the victory, dropping a tough 4-2 decision to the Volunteers (28-6) in the teams’ NCAA Round of 16 matchup at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center.
The loss marks the end to a successful season for the Bulldogs, which saw them return to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2001. State also closed the book on the 2013 campaign with its third-straight winning season under head coach Per Nilsson.
“Overall, I’m very proud of our guys and the way they have fought throughout the season,” Nilsson said. “It was a tough loss, but we accomplished a lot this season and I’m happy with the progress our program has made.”
The Volunteers jumped out in front early by grabbing the doubles point with wins on courts one and three. The nation’s top-ranked doubles squad in UT’s Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese downed MSU’s No. 13 squad of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp 8-6, after the MSU duo had rallied from two breaks down to even the score at 6-6. Leveling the field was the State tandem of Pedro Dumont and Ethan Wilkinson, who came back to defeat UT’s Jarryd Chaplin and Brandon Fickey 9-8(4) at No. 2.
The clincher came on court three, where the Volunteers’ 34th-ranked squad of John Collins and Ed Jones had to fend off a furious rally by MSU’s Romain Bogaerts and Zach White to take the match 8-6 and clinch the doubles point.
In singles, the two teams split first sets take, both capturing three each. Tennessee struck first, with Chaplin defeating MSU’s Angus 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 to give the Vols a 2-0 advantage. The Bulldogs then got on the board when the freshman Dumont earned his eighth-straight win, defeating UT’s Jones 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 6 position.
UT extended its lead to 3-1 when Fickey defeated Bulldog senior James Chaudry 6-3, 6-2 at the No. 3 spot. However, State answered back once again, with White defeating UT’s Collins 6-4, 6-3 on court five to bring State within one.
The match then came down to the top two courts of play, with State needing both to advance to the national quarterfinals. With play on court one between MSU’s No. 6 Bogaerts and UT’s No. 1 Libietis entering a decisive third set, the Bulldog junior Stropp, ranked 57th in the nation, looked to force a third on his own to keep MSU’s hopes alive. However, UT’s No. 34 Reese fought off Stropp’s rally attempts, earning a 6-3, 7-5 victory and clinching the match for the Vols.
Play on court one was then suspended, with UT’s Libietis leading MSU’s Bogaerts 3-6, 6-1, 3-1.
With the team season concluded, the careers of two Bulldog seniors have come to a close. Ethan Wilkinson finishes his time at State with a 6-8 career record in singles and a 26-25 record on the doubles court. James Chaudry wraps up his MSU stay with a 49-33 singles record and 23-28 in doubles play.
“I have really enjoyed having James and Ethan on this team,” Nilsson said. “They have meant a lot to this program and to myself and I hope that they take something out of their experience at MSU into their futures.”
Despite Mississippi State’s team season being finished, the 2013 campaign is not completely over. Freshmen Angus and Bogaerts, along with junior Stropp will compete in the 2013 NCAA Individual Championships. Bogaerts, the 6th national seed, and Stropp will compete in the singles competition, while Angus and Stropp will play in the doubles bracket.
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. 7 Tennessee 4, No. 10 Mississippi State 2
May 16, 2013 – Atkins Tennis Center – Urbana, Ill.
2013 NCAA Team Championship – Round of 16
1) No. 1 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. No. 13 Jordan Angus/Malte Stropp (MSU) 8-6
2) Pedro Dumont/Ethan Wilkinson (MSU) def. Jarryd Chaplin/Brandon Fickey (UT) 9-8(4)
3) No. 34 John Collins/Ed Jones (UT) def. Romain Bogaerts/Zach White (MSU) 8-6
1) No. 1 Libietis (UT) vs. No. 6 Bogaerts (MSU) 3-6, 6-1, 3-1(susp.)
2) No. 34 Reese (UT) def. No. 57 Stropp (MSU) 6-3, 7-5
3) Fickey (UT) def. James Chaudry (MSU) 6-3, 6-2
4) Chaplin (UT) def. Angus (MSU) 6-3, 6-3
5) White (MSU) def. Collins (UT) 6-4, 6-3
6) Dumont (MSU) def. Jones (UT) 6-2, 6-2
Order of finish… Doubles (1,2,3)… Singles (4,6,3,5,2)