May 21, 2018 11:02:24 AM
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The seventh-ranked and sixth-seeded Mississippi State men's tennis team lost to No. 3 Ohio State 4-3 Sunday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
The setback closed out a remarkable season that saw the Bulldogs do things that had not been done in 20-plus years, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1998 and claiming the Southeastern Conference tournament title for the first time since 1996. At 23-3, the Bulldogs finished 2018 with their best overall record since 1979 (25-2) and a program-best 11-1 SEC mark.
"Hats off to Ohio State," said MSU fourth-year coach Matt Roberts, whose team ended its season at 23-3). "They made a good comeback after the doubles point and put the match in a position that they are comfortable with. They're a really good team. I'm very proud of our guys with the way they've handled the whole year and improved every week. I'm proud of what we are building here."
The Bulldogs entered the match against a doubles lineup that had won 19-straight points entering the match. OSU (33-2) got an early advantage, with Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert taking a 6-4 decision on court three against Florian Broska and Trevor Foshey. MSU evened up the count moments later when 38th-ranked Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini earned a 6-3 victory at No. 2 against No. 61 John McNally and Mikael Torpegaard.
On court one, MSU's top-ranked team of Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic won the final two points to beat Martin Joyce and JJ Wolf to end the Buckeyes' 19-match doubles point streak.
"I thought we played one of our best doubles points all year," Roberts said. "I thought we came out very clean, loose, and aggressive on all three courts and got off to a good start."
The hero from MSU's Round of 16 win on Friday -- Foshey was first off the singles courts Sunday, notching a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Hunter Tubert.
OSU tied the match at 2 thanks to victories on courts five and three. At No. 5, the 112th-ranked Joyce completed a 7-5, 6-1 win against Broska just moments before No. 92 McNally defeated 84th-ranked Rakic 6-4, 6-3 on court three.
MSU re-claimed a 3-2 lead when the 23rd-ranked Oradini beat No. 41 JJ Wolf 6-4, 6-3 after claiming the final three games of the second set.
A few minutes later, the Buckeyes tied the score once more on court four, with No. 96 Kyle Seelig holding off a comeback attempt from Braun 6-1, 7-6 (5) after Braun had rallied from 4-0 down in the second set.
With the score deadlocked at 3-3, all eyes turned to the top-10 matchup on court one between MSU's second-ranked Borges and OSU's sixth-ranked Torpegaard, who had just begun the third set. There, Borges battled back after dropping the first set to take the second frame 6-3. In that third set, Torpegaard opened with a 3-0 lead en route to a 6-1 win to send Ohio State into Monday's semifinals.
MSU will now turn its attention to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. Borges is No. 3 overall seed in singles and part of the nation's top-seeded doubles tandem with Rakic.
Giovanni Oradini earned an at-large bid in the singles draw, while he and Braun are listed as first alternates for the doubles draw. Action begins with the singles draw Wednesday.
1. Diamond Dawgs rise to No. 2 in national rankings COLLEGE SPORTS
2. MSU women host Southern on Friday at The Hump COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Some coaches left with comical relief after bracket-gate COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Bowker Banter: ESPN's mistake steals the show this time COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Diamond Dawgs rev up the offense COLLEGE SPORTS