STARKVILLE, Miss. - In front of a standing room-only crowd at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre Saturday afternoon, Mississippi State's 21st-ranked men's tennis team completed the 2011 regular season emphatically, downing 30th-ranked arch rival Ole Miss 5-2.
With the win, State improved to 13-7 overall and concluded the Southeastern Conference regular season at 8-3 in the league, winning the Western Division outright by going a perfect 5-0 against the division this season. On a major roll of late, the Bulldogs have now won eight of their last 10 contests.
With the loss, the Rebels fell to 11-8, 5-6 in SEC play.
State will now turn its attention to the 2011 SEC Championship, to be held April 21-24 in Gainesville, Fla. With Saturday's win, MSU earned the #4 seed in the tournament, the team's highest since being the #3 seed in 1998. The Bulldogs, who receive a first-round bye on Thursday, will face the winner of fifth-seeded host Florida (ranked 16th) and 12th-seeded Arkansas next Friday, April 22, at 3 p.m. ET at Florida's Ring Tennis Complex.
"I am extremely proud of our guys' effort today, including our three first-year players James, Malte and Zach providing the three points early in singles to clinch the match," MSU head coach Per Nilsson said. "Everyone really showed up and focused to win this huge match against our rival and we proved, without a doubt, that we are the Western Division champions. We're going to enjoy this for a little while and then turn our attention to more important business at the SEC Tournament next week."
State got the opening doubles point Saturday in a classic battle. After the teams had traded 8-3 wins at the No. 2 and 3 positions (36th-ranked Bulldogs George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin won at No. 2), all eyes turned to the top spot. With ninth-ranked Rebels Chris and Marcel Theimann leading 7-5, State's 53rd-ranked duo of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp roared back to win the next four games and claim an exciting 9-7 victory to put MSU up 1-0 in the contest.
The Bulldogs carried their momentum from doubles into singles, winning the first set at all six singles positions to set up the team victory. Giving MSU a 2-0 advantage was James Chaudry with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph at the No. 3 singles position over UM's Kalle Norberg.
Two MSU freshmen would then complete the victory for the Bulldogs, finishing within minutes of each other. Rookie Zach White put State up 3-0 by finishing off a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 6 over Rebel Skogeng. The match clincher would then come from the newcomer Stropp, who won his 10th-straight match with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Ole Miss' Jonas Lutjen at the No. 4 spot.
The last three matches on court would all split sets and be determined in third set super-tiebreakers.
The teams completed play on courts 1 and 2 almost simultaneously. The Rebels grabbed their first point of the day at No. 2 where 98th-ranked Tucker Vorster upended MSU's 55th-ranked Coupland 3-6, 6-4, 1-0(6) in a tough battle. State's 66th-ranked Ilyushin then claimed a similar affair 6-4, 3-6, 1-0(8), upsetting 36th-ranked Rebel Marcel Theimann at the top spot in the lineup.
The last point of the afternoon went to Ole Miss, with Chris Theimann outlasting State's 76th-ranked Cant at the No. 5 spot 4-6, 7-6(4), 1-0(5), halting Cant's impressive win streak at nine matches.
OXFORD, Miss. - Mississippi State's women's tennis squad (2-15, 0-11 SEC) concluded regular season on Saturday in Oxford as they fell to #37 Ole Miss (11-9, 4-7 SEC).
Starting in doubles action, the Bulldogs defaulted on court 2 and 3 and did not play the match at the No. 1 position.
Turning to singles play, Mississippi State defaulted the point in the sixth position to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead in the match. On court 1, 28th ranked Kristi Boxx of Ole Miss ousted MSU's Alexandra Perper 6-4, 6-2. 107th ranked Rebel Caroline Rohde-Moe clinched the match for the Rebels as she took down Danielle Terpko of Mississippi State 6-1, 6-1.
On court 5, UM's Abbie Guthrie topped Roseline Dion of MSU 6-3, 6-2. In the No. 4 position, Laura van de Stroet of the Rebel's took down State's Olesya Tsigvintseva in a tough two-setter 6-4, 7-5. The final point came on court 2 where Ole Miss' Connor Vogel topped Mariia Ryzhova of the Lady Bulldogs 6-2, 7-6(3).
Mississippi State heads to Knoxville on Thursday for the SEC Tournament being played from April 21-24.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Courtney Nesbit and Ka'ili Smith tallied three hits apiece as the Mississippi State softball team fell 6-2 and 13-3 to No. 3 Alabama Saturday afternoon in an SEC doubleheader at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
MSU's record fell to 21-23 overall and 8-10 in SEC play. The Crimson Tide improved to 40-5 and 14-4 in league action.
Nesbit doubled in her third-straight game in Saturday's opener. The Acworth, Ga., native tallied a pair of hits and drove in a run in the nightcap.
Smith also went 2-for-3, including a double, with an RBI in game two after driving in a run and scoring another in Saturday's opening game.
Freshman Sam Lenahan hit her seventh home run of the season in the second inning of game two.
Smith sparked Mississippi State a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Saturday's opener. Senior Ali Bainbridge was hit by a pitch to open the game, and Jessica Cooley sacrificed her to second base before Smith punched an RBI base hit up the middle.
Nesbit followed with a towering double off the wall in left-center, and freshman Heidi Shape put MSU up 2-0 as her ground ball to short brought home Smith.
State had a chance to increase the lead in the second as Brittany Gates hit a leadoff single, took second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a Shelby Fisher sacrifice bunt. The Dawgs were unable to get her home, however, as a strikeout and groundout ended the inning.
Becker silenced the Alabama bats until the fourth when Jennifer Fenton doubled and Whitney Larsen tied the game 2-2 with a home run to left-center field.
Alabama completed the rally in the bottom of the sixth. Jackie Traina hit an infield single, and Kaila Hunt and Cassie Reilly-Boccia each reached to load the bases before Jazlyn Lunceford hit a pinch-hit grand slam to plate the winning runs.
Becker fell to 6-4 as she allowed six runs and seven hits. The Aurora, Ill., native struck out three in the complete-game effort.
Kelsi Dunne ran her record to 19-2 as she allowed the two MSU runs and three hits while striking out seven.
"I thought Stephanie did a good job today, but two pitches were the difference in the game. Other than those, I thought she did a great job today," Bulldog head coach Jay Miller said. "We came out really strong and put some runs on the scoreboard in the first inning. We had an opportunity to score some more runs, but we left some runners on base and didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. Dunne wasn't real sharp early, but as the game went on she got stronger.
"In game two, we weren't able to put any zeros on the scoreboard, and you have to do that on the mound to win games in the SEC. We have to bounce back and try to come out strong tomorrow," Miller said.
Alabama jumped out to the early 2-0 lead in game two, plating a pair of runs without garnering a hit. Kayla Braud was hit by a pitch to open the inning. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and eventually scored on an illegal pitch. Larsen, who walked, came around to score on a wild pitch by MSU starter Kylie Vry.
Vry fell to 8-11 as she was touched for eight runs (seven earned) on five hits over two different stints in the game.
The Bulldog bats got a run back in the top of the second as Lenahan belted a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center field, her seventh home run of the season, off Traina.
Traina notched the win to run her record to 16-3. She allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits over 5.2 innings.
The Crimson Tide answered in the bottom of the second as Reilly-Boccia opened the inning with a home run that just cleared the top of the wall in center field.
Jackey Branham followed with a single, and she put Alabama in front 4-1 as she came around to score when Larsen was hit by a Misty Flesher pitch with the bases loaded.
Flesher tossed three innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. She gave way to freshman Shana Sherrod, who was tagged for three unearned runs in 0.2 innings.
Alabama extended the lead to 5-1 in the third as Kendall Dawson hit a two-out base hit up the middle that brought home Branham after she singled and stole second.
Hunt made it a 6-1 game in the fourth as she lined a one-out pitch from Flesher off the scoreboard in left field.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 6-3 with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. Shelby Fisher walked to open the inning, and Bainbridge reached on a catcher's interference call. Two batters later, Smith ripped an RBI double to left-center to score Offutt, who re-entered the game to run for Fisher.
Nesbit capped the inning with a base hit that brought home Bainbridge.
Alabama, however, answered with four runs in the bottom of the sixth on an illegal pitch by Sherrod, a two-run double from Amanda Locke and an RBI single by Traina.
The Crimson Tide plated the game's final three runs on a sixth-inning three-run home run by pinch-hitter Courtney Conley.
The two teams conclude the series at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - It was a sea of Maroon and White on top of the leaderboard as Mississippi State won 14 events and set 10 personal records at the Jace Lacoste Invivational.
"Today was a great day for MSU track and field," head coach Steve Dudley said. "We came out, gave it all we had and left it all on the track."
Leading the way with two wins was sophomore Chloe Phillips as she claimed both the 1500m and 800m runs. Phillips posted a time of 4:37.37 to finish first ahead of teammate and fellow sophomore Renee Masterson, who placed second (4:48.14). Phillips also led the way in the 800m run (2:14.90), followed by Skylar Wallen in second (2:18.68), Chelsea Rae Smyth in third (2:19.12) and Christina Coleman in fourth (2:24.19).
Keisha Wallace took first in the 100m hurdles (13.58), ahead of teammates Talisha Lee, who set a personal record, in second (13.60) and Brittany Covington in fifth (14.73).
In Lady Bulldog field events, Rochelle Farquharson posted a personal best 20-02 ½ to take second in the long jump, while Sojourner Ewing posted 18-08 to take fifth. Farquharson's sister, Racquel, also set a personal record as she posted a 24.58 to take second in the 200m dash.
Two personal bests were set in the women's 3000m steeplechase as Kallie Dalton posted an 11:34.64 to finish first, while Adriana Poole ran an 11:41.01 to finish second.
The Lady Bulldog 4x100m relay team of Racquel Farquharson, Richesa McCaleb, Taneisha Baker and Muir took first (46.29), while the 4x400 quartet of Muir, Covington, Baker and Wallace finished second (3:43.68).
Ed Wesela posted his second victory of the weekend as he took first in the shot put with a throw of 54-06 ½. Jason Harper took first in the triple jump (49-05 ¾), while Marcus Jackson took first in the high jump (6-11) and Antoine Lipscomb finished first in the 110m hurdles (15.12).
Juan Sanchez led the way in the men's 1500m with his winning time of 3:58.35, while fellow distance runners John Valentine and Matthew Cameron took first in the 3000m steeplechase (9:36.65) and 800m run (1:55.24) respectively.
Also setting personal records were Daundre Barnaby and Garren Hendricks, who finished second in the 400m (46.60) and 100m dashes (10.40), respectfully.
Tavaris Tate took top honors in the 400m dash (46.26), before anchoring both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams to victory. The 4x100m crew of Justin Christian, D'Angelo Cherry, James Harris and Tate posted a 40.13 to win, while the 4x400 quartet of Barnaby, Harris, O'Neal Wilder and Tate ran a winning time of 3:09.22.
"We had some really great individual performances," Dudley stated. "I always tell my athletes to be better than you were yesterday and with the number of personal records we had today I would say they achieved that goal."
Masterson and Cameron were also recognized for there work in the classroom. The pair won the Newsom award, which is given to student athletes who display excellence in the classroom as well as in their sport.
MSU will next see action on Saturday, April 23, at the Ole Miss Invitational in Oxford, Miss.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - True freshman Axel Boasson led the Mississippi State men's golf team in round two of the SEC Championship on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island on Saturday with a 3-over-par 73. He is currently tied for 11th and just four strokes off the tournament lead.
The Bulldogs finished round-two action with a 310 card, just one stroke behind Vanderbilt.
Boasson's freshman counterpart, Chad Ramey, finished just behind him with an 81. Sophomore Brad Mason finished with a 77, while junior Lee Heaton chased him with a 77. Sophomore Robi Calvesbert rounded out MSU's day with an 82.
Florida currently leads the field with a 567, while John Peterson of LSU is tops individually with a 1-under-par 139.
Second-round action begins at 9:00 a.m. CT Sunday. Live stats will be available through www.mstateathletics.com.
Auburn, Ala. - As second-round action concluded at the SEC Championship at the University Club in Auburn Saturday, the Mississippi State women's golf team carded a 324. The lady linksters have totaled 639 strokes for thus far in the tournament.
Sophomore Maria Roos paced MSU with a 7-over-par 79, while senior Mallory Batson followed her with an 80. Fellow senior Erika Thornton chased Batson with an 82, and freshman Esther Huffman shadowed her with an 83. Freshman Mary Langdon Gallagher turned in an 85.
Auburn is currently atop the field on their home course with a 573 clip, while Erica Popson of Tennessee is tops individually with a 140.
Third-round action begins at 8:00 a.m. CT Sunday. Live stats will be available through www.mstateathletics.com