COLUMBIA, S.C. - After a lengthy singles battle and equally tight doubles affair, the 10th-seeded Mississippi State women's tennis team pulled out a 4-3 thriller over No. 7 seed host South Carolina in the second round of the 2015 SEC Championship Thursday night, capping a long rain-soaked day overall at the tournament.
The MSU doubles duo of Martina Frantova and Georgiana Patrasc delivered the match-clinching win in doubles, rallying from a 5-3 deficit to upset the 40th-ranked USC tandem of Hadley Berg and Caroline Dailey 8-7(3) at the No. 1 position. That win ended a nip-and-tuck match that lasted over five hours indoors at USC's four-court Field House, where the match was played due to adverse weather conditions in Columbia all afternoon. In fact, the match's start time was delayed over five hours, originally scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, and singles was played first.
With the win, 42nd-ranked MSU improved to 15-10 on the season and advances to meet No. 2 seed and sixth-ranked Georgia in Friday's quarterfinals at Noon CT. No. 28 South Carolina fell to 14-10 on the season with the loss. Friday's match against UGA will mark State's first appearance in the quarters of the SEC Championship since 2005.
"We were expecting a battle today and we sure got one," said MSU coach Daryl Greenan. "They beat us badly in doubles a few weeks ago and when we split the singles, I knew we were going to have to do something special. Jasmine and Naomi played incredible, and then Martina and Georgiana did an unbelievable job fighting until the end."
USC earned the first point of Thursday's battle, thanks to Meghan Blevins' 6-1, 6-4 victory on court four against MSU freshman Louise Ronaldson. State would then respond by taking wins on courts one and three, as 35th-ranked Jasmine Lee earned her sixth ranked victory of the season in an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win against USC's 44th-ranked Elixane Lechemia at No. 1. On court three, it was MSU's No. 106 Patrasc earning a 6-3, 6-2 win against Brigit Folland that put the Bulldogs up 2-1.
However, South Carolina regained the momentum by taking the next pair of matches, as MSU's Frantova fell in a close 7-5, 6-4 battle on court two to Dailey, while Bulldog Timea Guibe dropped a 6-3, 6-1 decision to USC's Berg at No. 6. But MSU freshman Jennifer Brown closed out singles with a 6-3, 7-5 win on court five over Ximena Siles Luna to send the match to the deciding doubles point, tied at 3-all.
USC gained the early edge in doubles when Cochran and Lechemia downed the Bulldog pair of Brown and Ronaldson 8-1 at the No. 3 spot. State evened things in doubles when Lee and Tran upset 46th-ranked Gamecocks Blevins an Folland 8-4 on court 2. That left the match at No. 1 between MSU's Frantova and Patrasc and USC's Berg and Dailey on court to decide the team outcome.
"We have had so many close matches against some great teams this year," said Greenan. "I am proud of how we have competed every weekend. This tournament win over a super feisty and competitive South Carolina team is a great reward for all of our hard work."