COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After weather forced the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament indoors, the 25th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team (16-7) prevailed over No. 20 Kentucky (19-9) 4-2 to move on to Saturday's semifinals.
MSU will face top-seeded and sixth ranked foe Georgia on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. The trip to the semifinals will be the second-straight trip for the Bulldogs. Full coverage of the tournament can be found at http://www.gamecocksonline.com.
"That was an awesome win for us and I'm very proud of how our guys battled and kept believing in each other the entire match," head coach Matt Roberts said following the win. "Indoors is Kentucky's preferred surface, so our guys fought through adversity from the onset to get this win."
Friday's match was delayed almost six hours before finally being moved into the USC Field House at 6:30 p.m. CT. Due to the time changes and weather delays, singles were played first between the Bulldogs and Wildcats. Doubles were not played after MSU clinched. USC's indoor facility was equipped with only four courts, as MSU and UK's top four competitors in the singles lineup faced off first.
Freshman and 98th-ranked Nuno Borges gave the Bulldogs their first point of the night, after defeating UK's Nils Ellefsen, 6-2, 6-1. The win for Borges was his fourth straight and 16th dual-match victory overall.
"Nuno is playing at a really high level right now," Roberts said. "For him to get that win to start out was huge for our team and gave our guys a confidence boost."
The Wildcats struck back by taking the next two singles matches after junior Mate Cutura and freshman Niclas Braun fell to UK foes. No. 33 Cutura dropped his contest, 6-2, 6-4, to No. 29 William Bushamuka, while Braun lost to Trey Yates, 7-6, 6-1.
After surrendering the lead, MSU would rally to take the final three singles matches from the Wildcats. First up in the comeback would be junior and 60th ranked Rishab Agarwal upsetting UK's No. 39 Ryotaro Matsumura, 6-2, 6-4. Freshman Strahinja Rakic fought back after dropping the first set to Austin Hussey, as he took a three-setter, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"Strale wasn't great in his first set, but he kept fighting and kept believing in himself," Roberts said. "Once he got into the third set I had complete confidence in him, because of his conditioning. He won that match off his physical fitness and maintaining his intensity for all three sets."
With the win in sight fellow freshman Trevor Foshey would go the distance with UK's Jake Stefanik as the two would duke it out for a thrilling finish to cap off the night. Foshey defeated Stefanik, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, to clinch the match for MSU and send the Bulldogs to Saturday's semifinal.
"Trevor had to fight through ups and downs during his match," Roberts said. "He was very calm in the third set and did a great job of handling adversity. I thought he played like an upperclassman today."
The 4-2 win was MSU's third straight against the Wildcats, which is the most since 1996-1998. The victory over No. 20 UK was also State's ninth ranked win of year. The contest marked the first time this season MSU has played indoors.
Saturday's opponent, Georgia, earned its way to tomorrow's semifinals after a 4-0 defeat of Ole Miss on Friday afternoon.
"Our guys are having a lot of fun right now and this is what the postseason is all about," Roberts said. "We're still hungry and we're enjoying the journey and battling through adversity every match."
If the Maroon and White should defeat UGA, MSU will face the winner of No. 13 Florida and No. 13 Texas A&M in Sunday's Championship match at 11 a.m. CT.