TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mississippi State head men's tennis coach Matt Roberts said Saturday after the ninth-ranked Bulldogs' win over No. 10 Florida that, if a match came down to one court to clinch a match, he had full confidence in every player in his lineup. On Sunday, junior Trevor Foshey proved him right, delivering an epic three-set victory to hand second-seeded State (20-2) a 4-3 upset of fifth-ranked and top-seeded Texas A&M (22-5) for the 2018 SEC Championship crown.
It was only State's second SEC tournament title since the event went to a dual match format in 1990, the other coming in 1996 when MSU won four matches in four days to claim the league crown in Fayetteville, Ark. It was the fifth SEC crown of any kind for MSU men's tennis - the two tourney titles as well as regular season crowns in 1965, 1967 and 1993.
It was also a satisfying second chance for the Bulldogs, who were edged by the Aggies 5-2 in College Station on April 13. In a match that ultimately decided the 2018 regular season title for A&M, it was State's only setback while going 11-1 during the SEC regular season. "That's Mississippi State tennis right there," Roberts said. "That's our culture. We're all about accountability and growing into good men. We're all about doing things the right way with a lot of class, so it's perfect that it came down to Trevor-a guy who has always been a leader for us."
With Sunday's match tied at 3-3, all eyes turned to court 6 where Foshey was in a three-set marathon with Texas A&M's A.J. Catanzariti, who served for the match at 5-4 - which Foshey overcame - and was serving for the match once again at 6-5. But Foshey would break back yet again to force a tiebreaker to decide the championship.
Foshey would build a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but Catanzariti answered with four-consecutive points to take a 5-3 advantage. After the players traded points, Catanzariti had two match points to clinch the win for the Aggies. But the MSU product from St. Cloud, Fla., dug in hard and would claim the next four points for an absolutely incredible 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(6) victory to clinch the historical win for MSU.
Foshey, along with teammate Giovanni Oradini who produced a big three-set win of his own to tie Sunday's match at 3-3, was named to the SEC Championship's all-tournament team. Fittingly, Foshey was also named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"We work our tails off almost the entire year, so it's huge for this team," Foshey said. "We're a team that loves each other-it's a family. This means everything." To start things Sunday, doubles was no different than Foshey's singles contest, with courts 1 and 2 coming down to 7-5 decisions. The Aggies struck first, however, when Patrick Kypson and Valentin Vacherot downed State's Florian Broska and Trevor Foshey by a 6-1 mark on court 3. The Bulldogs responded strongly on court 1, when MSU's 15th-ranked tandem of Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic won a tight 7-5 battle with A&M's sixth-ranked Juan Carlos Aguilar and Jordi Arconada, putting a winner-take-all match on court 2 for the doubles point.
There, 61st-ranked Bulldog pair Niclas Braun and Giovani Oradini were locked in a back-and-forth battle with Aggies A.J. Catanzariti and Arthur Rinderknech. Down two breaks and the Aggies serving for the match, the Bulldog duo rallied to win the next three games to go up 6-5. They then broke the Aggie pair on a deciding point to take an exciting 7-5 victory and give State the early 1-0 lead. It was the 14th win in 15 matches for the Bulldog tandem this season.
Singles was seemingly as hotly-contested as doubles, with both teams winning three first sets.
The State rookie Broska was first off the singles courts Sunday, taking a rather quick 6-4, 6-0 triumph against Aggie Barnaby Smith on court 5 to put MSU up 2-0. It was the true freshman's eighth win in his last nine singles affairs.
But Texas A&M would claim the next three matches in straight-set fashion to take a 3-2 advantage in the match. A&M's 71st-ranked Valentin Vacherot defeated MSU's No. 77 Rakic by a 6-2, 6-4 mark on court 3. A few moments later, the Aggies tied it up at 2-all when seventh-ranked Patrick Kypson upset MSU's second-ranked Borges in a tight 7-5, 6-4 contest on court 1. Moments later, the Aggies took the lead when the 121st-ranked Aguilar downed the Bulldogs' Braun 7-6(3), 6-1 at No. 4. That left courts 2 and 6 in play, with MSU needing both to rally for the win. And the Bulldogs would do just that.
On court 2, the 27th-ranked MSU sophomore Oradini claimed a three-set war with the 10th-ranked Aggie Rinderkench, setting up Foshey's epic finish at No. 6. Oradini's win - his ninth in 11 contests and third over a top 10-ranked player in 2017-18 - improved his team-leading singles record to 27-11.
Sunday's win was State's 20th of the season, now having achieved that mark three times in Roberts' four seasons as the Bulldog mentor. "Mississippi State is on the rise. We have so many great things going on right now, in every sport. Everyone works very hard. Our fan base is unbelievable. It's just amazing to be able to do this for our fans and I'm really happy with where we're at as a team. We're looking to build a lot of momentum and bring some fun tennis to Starkville. Hail State!"