Wildcats Roll Over No. 38 Bulldogs 4-3
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 50 University of Kentucky men’s tennis team extended its win streak to four games by defeating No. 38 Mississippi State 4-3 Friday night at Boone Tennis Complex for its third consecutive victory when facing a higher-ranked team.
After four hours of indoor play, it was UK sophomore Alex Lambropoulos’ turn to step into the spotlight by winning his match at No. 6 singles and clinching the deciding point for the first time of his career. Lambropoulos’ teammate Alberto Gonzalez, who had sealed the last two upsets at No. 5 singles this week, was in a three-set struggle when the match was decided.
With the Cats up 3-2, Lambropoulos found himself behind 3-2 but rattled off the next four games to secure the first set over Mississippi State’s Tanner Stump. His UK teammates and Big Blue fans sensed the crucial step towards victory and rallied behind him, affectionately cheering his nickname “Brop” on big points. Lambropoulos used an early break to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the second stanza but Stump broke back to get back on serve 4-3. The Wildcat broke serve for the second time and served out the win after a couple of tight match points, 6-3.
“The way Lambropoulos has stepped up in the last few matches has really helped us, especially tonight,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said.
The doubles point came down to the wire for the third consecutive match-up against a ranked opponent.
At No.1 doubles, junior Bruno Agostinelli and freshman Brad Cox breezed past the Bulldog tandem of Ivan Bjelica and Philippe Frayssinoux, 8-3. Mississippi State countered with an 8-2 win at the No. 2 slot as Ryan Farlow and Pjotrs Necajevs beat UK’s Will Beck and Shane Collins. All eyes at Boone focused on court three and it did not look good for the Cats.
Lambropoulos and senior captain Marcus Sundh found themselves down a break at 6-3 in the final doubles match of the day against Mississippi State’s Chris Doerr and Stump. The two Bulldogs barked after every crucial point or game win, but the Cats clawed their way back into the match feeding off of the crowd support. UK harnessed the positive energy and used it to race past the Dogs in four straight games to win 8-6 and clinch the doubles point for Kentucky.
The Cats are now 7-1 this season when winning the doubles point, clinching the pivotal tally the last four matches.
At No. 3 singles, Sundh again came through for the Wildcats winning in straight sets. The captain quickly won the first set over Doerr 6-0. The Bulldog put up a bigger fight in the second but could never take the lead, as Sundh won 7-5 to put UK up 2-0 in the match.
“Sundh has been a rock for us this season and certainly was again tonight,” Emery said.
Mississippi State got on the board after No. 50 Frayssinoux fought off Cox at the number 2 spot. The UK freshman dug out of a 5-3 hole in the first set to win three straight games before the Bulldog held serve to force and later win the tiebreaker. Cox broke serve early in the second but Frayssinoux held tough to win the last four games of the match for a 6-3 decision.
Beck lost the first set on court four to Farlow 6-1 but used an early break to return the favor 6-3 in the second. The UK rookie broke again to open the third set but could not hang on to the lead as Farlow rolled off the final four games of the match for the 6-4 final.
With the match even at 2-2, a big-time battle was shaping up on court one between No. 48 Agostinelli and No. 37 Bjelica and the Wildcat delivered again dispatching his fourth-straight ranked opponent.
Agostinelli went up a break at 4-2 in the first set and held on for the 6-4 victory. Neither player could hold serve through the first four games of the second before Bjelica held to go up 3-2, and later used a late break of serve to win the set 6-3. The pair traded early breaks in the third before Agostinelli broke Bjelica, rattled by a raucous crowd, a second time to extend his lead to 5-2 which led to an important 6-3 win for the Cats.
“I think Bruno’s wins at No. 1 singles and doubles was the key for us tonight,” said Emery.
In the final singles match of the day, Mississippi State’s Antonio Lastre humbled Gonzalez in the first set, 6-1 before the UK freshman found his game to win 6-2 in the second. The opponents were knotted at 3-3 when Lambropoulos ended the Bulldogs’ chances. Lastre won by default.
“I’m just really proud of our team,” Emery said. “It has been a tough week with four matches so far. We just really hung in there and competed well. They have dealt through a lot of adversity in these matches and really come through.
“Early in the year, we were a little soft and didn’t deal with that adversity. But the schedule we play and the conference we play in really toughens you up. Mississippi State is having a very good year and is a well-coached team. It’s a big win for us.”
With the win, the Cats improve to 10-9 overall and 3-4 in the SEC while the Dogs fall to 8-7 this season and 2-5 in conference. No. 38 Mississippi State is the third consecutive higher-ranked opponent that Kentucky has defeated this week.
Kentucky concludes its five-match home stand Sunday when it hosts No. 7 Ole Miss at Boone Tennis Complex with first serve at 1:00 p.m. ET.
#50 Kentucky 4, #38 Mississippi State 3