February 8, 2013 12:55:50 AM
JACKSON -- For the second consecutive year, the River Hills Cup is wrapped in Maroon and White. In an expectedly tough battle, the No. 10 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (5-0) defeated No. 12 Ole Miss (2-1) 4-2 Thursday night at River Hills Club to retain the trophy in a match that lasted nearly six hours.
The Bulldogs have now won four straight against their in-state foes, who are the preseason coaches pick to win the Southeastern Conference in 2013. Four of State's five wins in 2013 have come over top 30 teams and MSU's 5-0 start is the program's best since 1998's NCAA Semifinal team started 7-0.
"I thought it was an amazing match," MSU head coach Per Nillson said. "They're not easy to beat and they have a really good team. This is a huge win for our team and also for our freshmen."
State jumped out to an early 1-0 lead by capturing the doubles point to start the match. MSU's duo of Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson, playing at the No. 2 spot, dropped their match to the No. 25-ranked UM team of William Kallberg and Adrian Skogeng 8-3, giving the Rebels the early advantage.
However, the Bulldogs would not relent, grabbing an 8-5 victory on court one from the No. 28 duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp against Ole Miss' No. 43 Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz. The MSU freshmen duo of Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont would then follow with the clinching win against UM's Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark 8-6 on court three.
Singles play would provide even more excitement between the two in-state rivals. State would build a 3-0 lead in the match before Ole Miss fought back to make things interesting late.
MSU's junior Stropp, ranked 81st in the nation, would be the first to finish, pulling a major upset against No. 5 Lutjen of Ole Miss at No. 2. Stropp took the first set, but Lutjen forced a deciding set in the match, which Stropp would take with ease, posting a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory. Stropp is now 5-0 this season in singles.
State's second singles victory would come from top freshman, No. 25 Bogaerts, at the No. 1 spot in the lineup. The MSU newcomer, now 5-0 this season, captured the first set, but Scholtz fired back to take the second, forcing a third and final set. The two stars would battle it out, with MSU's Bogaerts finally taking the match 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
At that point, State senior James Chaudry was in a fierce battle with No. 95 Kallberg in a tight three-setter at the No. 3 spot trying to clinch the match. Chaudry would drop a very tough decision, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(8).
Leading 3-1, the Bulldogs would rely on the play of their other three freshmen to find the final victory they needed.
At the No. 5 position, State's Dumont faced off against UM's Lindmark, but fell 6-4, 6-3, leaving MSU rookies Angus and Stefan Vinti still on court.
Down a set, Angus started battling back against Backstrom at the No. 4 position and rallied to claim a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 triumph to clinch the team victory for the Bulldogs.
The rookie improved to 5-0 on the season with the victory.
After the match was clinched, Vinti was still up a set and tight in the second with Skogeng when play was suspended.
The Bulldogs return to action Sunday, when they host No. 53 South Alabama and Tennessee Tech in a doubleheader on campus. Match times will be 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.