AUSTIN, Texas -- For the fourth consecutive season and 15th time in program history, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-10) tasted victory in the opening round of the NCAA championship, dominating the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns 4-0 on Friday.
The win advances State to the second round of the 2014 NCAA championship, a feat MSU accomplished for the eighth time in 10 appearances since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999. The Bulldogs will face off against Texas on Saturday for the right to advance to the NCAA Round of 16 in Athens, Ga., which starts May 16. The Longhorns advanced to the second round after defeating the Marist Red Foxes 4-0 in Friday’s other first-round match up in Austin.
State jumped off to a hot start in Friday’s opener at UT’s Penick-Allison Tennis Center, taking the doubles point from ULL with wins on courts Nos. 1 and 3, but not without a challenge from the Ragin’ Cajuns. MSU’s tandem of Rishab Agarwal and Zach White jumped out in front with an early break on court No.3 and never looked back, downing ULL’s Carl Alberton and Hunter Johnson 8-2. Court No. 1 clinched the doubles point, as the Bulldogs’ team of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp rallied from down a break late to defeat ULL’s Rick de Groot and Jake Wynan 8-6.
Play on court No. 2 was called after MSU took the doubles point, with State’s team of Florian Lakat and Tassilo Schmid trading holds with ULL’s Damian Farinola and Edgar Lopez, tied at 6-6.
Play was close at the start of singles play, with the Ragin’ Cajuns taking the first set on two courts and pushing the opening set to a tiebreaker on two others. Despite the rally for momentum, the Bulldogs would take control of the match, taking those two tiebreakers.
State’s White was the first to complete play, defeating ULL’s Farinola 6-2, 6-3 at the No. 4 position to give MSU a 2-0 lead.
Louisiana-Lafayette made one last push for momentum, taking the second set on No. 2 to force a third, but State responded by pushing courts Nos. 3 and 5 to a third as well, putting the pressure back on ULL.
MSU’s Stropp cruised in the final set on court No. 2, taking his match 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 to push State’s lead to 3-0.
“I feel like I played really well today,” Stropp said. “I just focused on trying to make a lot of balls and felt like I kept getting better, especially in the third set. It was just a lot of fun today, playing next to Flo [Florian Lakat] and Jordie [Jordan Angus], because we created a lot of energy.”
The match then came down to who would clinch first: Lakat at No. 1 or Angus at No. 3. With both a point away from clinching, Lakat earned a 7-6(3), 6-2 win at the top spot, advancing MSU to Saturday’s second round.
Of note in the Bulldogs’ win was MSU improving to 13-4 after winning the doubles point this year, with a 4-2 record in neutral site battles. The win also gave State its 13th win against a ranked opponent for the year.