CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Up 2-1 but down a break in the third set of the four remaining matches, the seventh-ranked Mississippi State men’s tennis team had to dig deep in Friday’s NCAA Round of 16 match against Texas.
The Bulldogs (23-2) did just that, breaking back on all four of those courts en route to a 4-1 victory against 11th-seeded and No. 12 Texas (19-7) to advance to the national quarterfinals for the first time since 1998 and the sixth time in program history. There, MSU is set to face third-ranked and third-seeded Ohio State (31-2), who advanced with a 4-1 win against No. 37 Minnesota on Friday.
Due to consistent rain showers in central North Carolina Friday, several matches were moved indoors to be completed, including at host Wake Forest as well as at the University of North Carolina.
“Give Texas credit for how hard they fought,” fourth-year head coach Matt Roberts said. “They made us feel uncomfortable for a while in those second sets and even in the third sets. They didn’t go away and they have a very talented team. It was a heck of a match and I’m very proud of the guys and how they played today.”
Junior Trevor Foshey, the hero in MSU’s 4-3 win to claim the SEC Tournament crown in late April, would come up with the goods again on Friday. With MSU leading 3-1, the SEC Tourney MVP rallied from down 4-3 and a break in the third set on court 6 to post a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 clincher over Texas’ Adrian Ortiz.
Setting up that triumph was an equally important three-set win from All-SEC First-Teamer Strahinja Rakic, who had dropped the second set and was also broken in the first game of the third by 89th-ranked Longhorn Harrison Scott. But the 84th-ranked Bulldog junior stormed back for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win. MSU led 3-1.
But all of the Bulldogs fought hard all day long to earn one of the program’s biggest wins in 20 years.
Facing a very good Longhorn doubles lineup, the Bulldogs knew it would be a battle to take the always crucial doubles point. State began on a strong note, with court 3’s Florian Broska and Foshey rallying from down 15-40 serving in the final game to take a 6-4 victory against Texas’ Colin Markes and Yuya Ito. The Longhorns responded moments later with a 6-3 win on court 2 by Adrian Ortiz and Leonardo Telles against State’s 38th-ranked Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini – only the second loss of the season for the MSU duo, against 16 victories.
MSU broke the deadlock on court 1, with top-ranked Nuno Borges and Rakic knocking off UT’s No. 39 Harrison Scott and Christian Sigsgaard by a 6-4 mark, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs got off to another strong start in singles, taking five of the six first sets, including one in tiebreak fashion. State went up 2-0 early in singles play when the 23rd-ranked Oradini downed Texas’ No. 52 Ito easily on court 2, 6-2, 6-3. The victory marked the sophomore’s fifth straight and he has won 12 of his last 14.
At that point, it appeared the Bulldogs were going to cruise to the win, having won the first set on four of the remaining five matches. But that’s when Texas made a furious comeback effort, completing a straight-set triumph and rallying to split sets in all four of the matches where State had the early advantage.
Texas cut MSU’s lead in half when 104th-ranked Rodrigo Banzer finished a 6-4, 6-1 decision against Broska at No. 5.
Rakic then notched his victory on court 3 and Foshey followed with his match clincher on court 6.
But State even had the Bulldogs not pulled out those two, State was in good shape at No. 1 and 4 as well. On court 1, State’s second-ranked Borges was up 5-4 in the third frame over 110th-ranked Sigsgaard, while Braun and Telles were locked in a 4-4 tie on No. 4.
“I’m very proud of our guys and how they kept believing in themselves,” Roberts said. “They kept working together and used each other to find that strength. Every bone in my body was confident in Strahinja, Nic, Trevor and Nuno to get the job done there at the end.”
State evened up the series with the Longhorns at 4-all and have now won three of the last four against UT.
Next Up For MSU…
In the NCAA Quarterfinals, the Bulldogs will face the 2018 Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes (31-2), who advanced to the quarters with a 4-1 victory against No. 37 Minnesota on Friday. First serve is set for Noon ET (11 a.m. CT) Sunday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C.
MSU is 1-1 against the Buckeyes all-time, the last meeting coming in 2012.
No. 7 Mississippi State 4, No. 12 Texas 1
2018 NCAA Championship – Round of 16
May 18, 2018
Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center (Indoors) - Chapel Hill, N.C.
1. #1 Nuno Borges/Strahinja Rakic (MSU) def. #39 Harrison Scott/Christian Sigsgaard (UT) 6-4
2. Adrian Ortiz/Leonardo Telles (UT) def. #38 Niclas Braun/Giovanni Oradini (MSU) 6-3
3. Florian Broska/Trevor Foshey (MSU) def. Colin Markes/Yuya Ito (UT) 6-4
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
1. #2 Nuno Borges (MSU) vs. #110 Christian Sigsgaard (UT) 7-6(3), 4-6, 5-4 (susp.)
2. #23 Giovanni Oradini (MSU) def. #52 Yuya Ito (UT) 6-2, 6-3
3. #84 Strahinja Rakic (MSU) def. #89 Harrison Scott (UT) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
4. Niclas Braun (MSU) vs. #93 Leonardo Telles (UT) 6-1, 4-6, 4-4 (susp.)
5. #104 Rodrigo Banzer (UT) def. Florian Broska (MSU) 6-4, 6-1
6. Trevor Foshey (MSU) def. Adrian Ortiz (UT) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
Order of finish: 2, 5, 3, 6