WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – One of the best seasons in program history came to a close Sunday, as the seventh-ranked and sixth-seeded Mississippi State men's tennis team (23-3) dropped a hard-fought 4-3 decision to No. 3 Ohio State (33-2) in the NCAA quarterfinals 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 quarters for the first time since 1998 and claiming the SEC 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," fourth-year head coach Matt Roberts said. "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 had a tall task ahead of them in doubles Sunday, facing a Buckeye doubles lineup that had won 19 straight doubles points entering the match. OSU got an early advantage, with Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert taking a close 6-4 decision on court 3 against State's Florian Broska and Trevor Foshey. State evened up the count moments later, with 38th-ranked Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini taking an exciting 6-3 victory at No. 2 against No. 61 John McNally and Mikael Torpegaard, setting up a thrilling finish on court 1.
There, top-ranked Bulldogs Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic staved off a rally attempt by OSU's Martin Joyce and JJ Wolf to win the final two games and end the Buckeyes' 19-match doubles point streak.
"I thought we played one of our best doubles points all year," Roberts said. "Ohio State came in having won 19 doubles points in a row. 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 convincing 6-2, 6-3 victory over Buckeye Hunter Tubert to put State up 2-0.
OSU knotted it up at 2-all when the Buckeyes got back-to-back victories on courts 5 and 3. At No. 5, the 112th-ranked Joyce completed a 7-5, 6-1 win against MSU's Broska just moments before No. 92 McNally bested State's 84th-ranked Rakic by a 6-4, 6-3 mark on court 3.
State reclaimed a 3-2 lead when the 23rd-ranked Oradini knocked off No. 41 JJ Wolf in straight-set fashion—winning 6-4, 6-3 after claiming the final three games of the second set. A few minutes later, the Buckeyes would knot up the score once more on court 4, with No. 96 Kyle Seelig holding off a comeback attempt from State's 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 court 1's top-10 matchup 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 a hard-fought first set, taking the second frame 6-3 to force the match-deciding third set. In that third set, Torpegaard opened with a 3-0 lead and didn't look back, taking it 6-1 to send the Buckeyes to Monday's NCAA semifinals.
Next Up For MSU…
State will now turn its attention to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, with Borges being the No. 3 overall seed in singles in addition to being 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 and currently listed as first alternates for the doubles draw. Action begins with the singles draw on Wednesday.
No. 3 Ohio State 4, No. 7 Mississippi State 3
2018 NCAA Championship – Quarterfinals
May 20, 2018 - Wake Forest Tennis Complex (Lower Courts)
1. #1 Nuno Borges/Strahinja Rakic (MSU) def. Martin Joyce/JJ Wolf (OSU) 6-4
2. #38 Niclas Braun/Giovanni Oradini (MSU) def. #61 John McNally/Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) 6-3
3. Matt Mendez/Hunter Tubert (OSU) def. Florian Broska/Trevor Foshey (MSU) 6-4
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
1. #6 Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) def. #2 Nuno Borges (MSU) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
2. #23 Giovanni Oradini (MSU) def. #41 JJ Wolf (OSU) 6-4, 6-3
3. #92 John McNally (OSU) def. #84 Strahinja Rakic (MSU) 6-4, 6-3
4. #96 Kyle Seelig (OSU) def. Niclas Braun (MSU) 6-1, 7-6(5)
5. #112 Martin Joyce (OSU) def. Florian Broska (MSU) 7-5, 6-1
6. Trevor Foshey (MSU) def. Hunter Tubert (OSU) 6-2, 6-3
Order of finish: 6, 5, 3, 2, 4, 1