KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Propelled by a boost of momentum in singles action, the Mississippi State men's tennis team (19-7) surged past South Carolina (20-6) as the Bulldogs took a 4-1 decision over the Gamecocks.
With the win, MSU advances to the Southeastern Conference Tournament Semifinals, where the Bulldogs will face No. 11 Texas A&M on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT. UTsports.com will provide live stats and video.
"We knew this match was going to be a battle," head coach Matt Roberts said. "We respect South Carolina so much, because they fight for everything and never give up. I'm proud of our effort and how we battled on every single court. Every guy was supportive and there for each other, which is what I love about this team."
The victory improved MSU's record to 19-7 on the season, while USC fell to 20-6 on the year.
Doubles play began with the Bulldogs and Gamecocks trading a pair of 6-1 decisions as Mate Cutura and Vaughn Hunter defeated Alex Fennel and Thomas Mayronne, while No. 9 Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey lost a ranked matchup to No. 18 Yancy Dennis and Harrison O'Keefe. A tight affair on court three would decide the doubles point, as Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic outlasted USC's tandem of Gabriel Friedrich and Andrew Schafer in a tiebreaker 7-6(6).
"It's great to see Nuno and Strale get revenge on a team that beat them in the regular season," Roberts said. "They did a good job communicating during the match and setting up their plays. They were so clutch for us and we needed that doubles point because we knew it would be a battle in singles."
After a marathon doubles session, the Gamecocks would surge back to take four of the first six sets in singles play. USC grabbed a win on court two after No. 52 Gabriel Friedrich downed Cutura, 7-6, 6-3 to even the match at 1-1.
"We had a slow start in singles, but our guys held tough and didn't cave in," Roberts said. "We knew we had to hold off their push, and it eventually starting falling our way."
Borges was the first to make a push as the sophomore bounced back to take his second set, the surge would be contagious as Rakic also forced a third set. Borges would then wrestle the match away from No. 67 O'Keefe as he took the third set, 6-0.
"Nuno flipped our match, he had a huge hand in changing the momentum," Roberts said. "As his confidence started to build, it begin to spread to other guys and it was great to see us make a big final push."
The ranked win for Borges was his 20th of the season as the sophomore improved to 30-5 overall this season.
Following Borges' victory on court one, the floodgates would open for the Bulldogs as Rakic and Giovanni Oradini took back-to-back matches. Rakic downed Schafer, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, while Oradini clichéd MSU's win after a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
"This is the type of match that our team loves," Roberts said. "The longer the match goes, the stronger we get. Our guys showed resiliency by holding off long enough for the match to start to turn. We love these kind of matches, nothing gets better."
Braun and Foshey's matches were suspended in the third set, with Braun tied 1-1 and Foshey trailing 2-3.
Up Next The Bulldogs will face top-seeded and 11th-ranked Texas A&M on Saturday at 12 p.m. CT. The winner will advance to Sunday's championship match against Florida/Georgia at noon.
Doubles 1. No. 18 Yancy Dennis/Harrison O'Keefe (USC) def. No. 9 Niclas Braun/Trevor Foshey (MSU) 6-1 2. Mate Cutura/Vaughn Hunter (MSU) def. Alex Fennell/Thomas Mayronne (USC) 6-1 3. Nuno Borges/Strahinja Rakic (MSU) def. Gabriel Friedrich/Andrew Schafer (USC) 7-6(6) Order of finish: 2, 1, 3
Singles 1. No. 3 Nuno Borges (MSU) def. No. 67 Harrison O'Keefe (USC) 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 2. No. 52 Gabriel Friedrich (USC) def. Mate Cutura (MSU) 7-6(2), 6-3 3. No. 111 Strahinja Rakic (MSU) def. Andrew Schafer (USC) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 4. Niclas Braun (MSU) vs. Yancy Dennis (USC) 3-6, 7-6(4), 1-1, suspended 5. Giovanni Oradini (MSU) def. Alex Fennell (USC) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5* 6. Trevor Foshey (MSU) vs. Paul Jubb (USC) 7-6(8), 1-6, 2-3 Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3, 5 * - Match-clinching victory