No. 25 Kentucky rallies, gets hard-fought win at LSU to start SEC play
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Kentucky came from behind on the road in its Southeastern Conference season opener on Friday night to rally and collect a 5-2 win against No. 73 LSU behind three come-from-behind, three-set singles wins and two straight-set wins in singles play at the Dub Robinson Stadium.
In doubles, Kentucky (8-4, 1-0 SEC) and LSU dueled to the final point, as the Wildcats' pair of senior Ryuji Hirooka and Nils Ellefsen fell in a tiebreak on the deciding court to give the Tigers the early leg up in the match. Hirooka and Ellefson's match on court No. 3 was the tightest of the three doubles matches, as no team ever got up by more than a break.
LSU (5-4, 0-1 SEC) took the 7-6 lead late, before Hirooka and Ellefsen forced a tiebreak and eventually lost 7-5 in the breaker. The loss was the first for Hirooka and Ellefsen, who were 12-0 heading into play on Friday..
The Wildcats' lone doubles win came on court No. 1, where senior Tom Jomby and sophomore Kevin Lai knocked off No. 20 Chris Simpson/Boris Arias 8-4. It's the third time this season that Jomby and Lai have knocked off a ranked doubles opponent, and they upped their season doubles record to 7-4 on the season.
In singles, Kentucky got off to a slow start on some courts, but caught fire about an hour into the singles competition and was able to secure the win with five singles wins, on courts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.
The Wildcats quickly squared the match at 1-1 overall courtesy of a straight-sets win from senior Grant Roberts, as he shellacked Harrison Kennedy of LSU 6-4, 6-2 on court No. 6. Roberts was in total control from start to finish in the match and never allowed Kennedy to gain any momentum. The win for Roberts was the 47th of his career, as he ups his record to 4-2 in 2014.
On court No. 1, Jomby continued his dominant play of late, as he put Kentucky in the lead for the first time in the match with a 6-3, 6-3 win on court No. 1 against No. 109 Chris Simpson. Jomby was up 3-2 in the opening set before pulling away, and never let Simpson in the second set to secure his 11th singles win of the season. Jomby now holds an 11-1 mark in singles play this season.
No. 99 Beck Pennington locked up a 3-1 lead for the Willdcats with the first of two come-from-behind, three-set wins for Kentucky on court No. 3. Pennington picked up his third win of the season on Friday night with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 win versus Andrew Korinek.
LSU would cut Kentucky's lead to 3-2 a few minutes later, as Kevin Lai's late rally on court No. 5 was not enough. Lai dropped the first set 6-2 before rallying to force a decisive third set at 6-3 in the second set. After Lai and Justin Butsch of LSU were 1-1 in the third set, Butsch won the final handful of games in the set and collected a three-set win at 6-1 in the third.
The clinching match for Kentucky came on court No. 4 for the first time all season, as Jerry Lopez clinched his first-career match with a come-from-behind, three-set win versus Tam Trihn 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Lopez dropped the first set, before turning up his play to a different level and winning eight of the final 11 games of the match to collect the win.
Senior Alejandro Gomez also collected a win on court No. 2, giving Kentucky a 5-1 edge in singles play versus the Tigers. Gomez knocked off Boris Arias of Louisiana State, to collect his sixth win of the season and up his singles record to 6-2 on the year.