News from MSU Media Relations--Apr. 1, 2012.

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Men's Tennis, Women's Tennis, Softball and Men's Golf.

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - With a hard-fought 4-1 triumph on Senior Day, the 10th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis crew improved to 16-4 overall and 7-1 in SEC play with their Sunday victory over the 39th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (12-9, 1-7). State remains in the SEC West lead with the win and in a tie for second overall in the conference after Sunday play.

The Bulldogs' 16-4 start this season is the best since MSU's 1998 team began 17-3 in dual match play. MSU's 7-1 start in the SEC is the team's best since 1997 when the program started a similar 7-1 in conference play. The 1998 team reach the NCAA semifinals while the '97 team made the quarters.

Arkansas got out to the early lead Sunday as they took the doubles matches on courts 1 and 2 in decisive fashion. In the No. 2 position for Arkansas was Manfred Jeske and Mike Nott, who took an 8-1 decision from MSU's 43rd-ranked duo of George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin. In the top spot for the Bulldogs was the 32nd-ranked duo of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp, who dropped an 8-3 decision to the Razorbacks' No. 48 duo of Matt Walters and Hall Fess as Arkansas took the doubles point.

Play on court 3 was suspended as Arkansas' tandem of Mike Ward and Nikolas Zogaj were leading 6-3 over MSU's Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson.

In singles, however, the Bulldogs would battle back to take five out of six first sets, but Arkansas would make things interesting in the second set on many of those courts, forcing the Bulldogs to dig deep for the victory.

MSU's 67th-ranked Stropp took a quick two-setter on court 3 6-3, 6-1 over Arkansas' Walters to tie the match at 1-1. Then, the three State seniors who were honored prior to the match would take care of business by winning the next three points for the Bulldogs.

The 15th-ranked senior Ilyushin gave MSU their first lead of the day as he ousted 108th-ranked Zogaj 6-3, 6-1 and a 2-1 Bulldog lead. Ilyushin is now on a six-match win streak and is now a remarkable 8-0 in SEC play at the No. 1 position.

Extending MSU's lead to 3-1 was 44th-ranked senior Cant. Taking an easy 6-1 first set, his Razorback foe Jenske would battle to stay in it as he took a 5-4 advantage in the second. However, Cant would battle back to break and force a tiebreaker. Cant's efforts would prove too much as he took the tiebreaker and the match 6-1, 7-6(3).

The match clincher came in the No. 5 position where 46th-ranked senior Coupland was battling Arkansas' Mike Ward. After dropping a tough 6-3 first set, Coupland would battle back and take the second 6-2 and send the match to a dramatic third. Up 5-4 in the third set, Coupland broke to take the match 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 and clinch the 4-1 victory for the Bulldogs.

Play on the remaining courts was suspended. MSU junior James Chaudry was in a tight battle at 6-2, 4-6, 4-4 in the second position while sophomore Zach White was serving up 7-6, 4-6, 5-3 on court 6.

MSU will end the regular season with three-straight road matches at No. 9 Kentucky (Apr. 6), No. 38 Vanderbilt (Apr. 8) and No. 14 Ole Miss (Apr. 14). State then returns home to host the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship at the Pitts Tennis Centre, April 19-22 during Super Bulldog Weekend.


Women's Tennis
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Mississippi State Lady Bulldog tennis posted three three-set comeback victories in singles Sunday to rally from a 3-1 deficit and defeat No. 29 ranked Arkansas in a thrilling 4-3 decision on the road.

The victory improved State to 7-10 overall, 1-7 in SEC play. Arkansas fell to 10-9, 2-6. The victory was State's highest ranked win since a triumph over #16 LSU in 2009 in Starkville.

With wins on courts one and two, the Lady Bulldogs were able to secure the critical opening doubles point, advancing the team to an early 1-0 lead. Olesya Tsigvintseva and Ekaterina Iakovleva kicked off State's doubles success with an 8-3 triumph against Emily Carbone and Stephanie Roy of Arkansas at the No. 2 position. Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran continued the winning trend, pairing up against Arkansas's Laurie Gingras and Claudine Paulson to notch a closely contested 9-7 victory. The Lady Bulldogs almost pulled off the doubles sweep, but Roseline Dion and Petra Ferancova were unable to hold of the Razorbacks, falling 7-5 in the deciding tiebreaker at the No. 3 position.

Arkansas rallied back strong from MSU's early success, executing three consecutive straight-set wins in singles competition. Roy initiated the string with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against the MSU senior Tsigvintseva on court two. Court four followed suit, as Gingras took down the MSU rookie Tran in a 6-0, 6-2 decision. State's Dion fell in a first-set tiebreaker at No. 6, but Parenteau continued the Razorback's roll, claiming the tiebreaker 7-2, and ultimately taking the match 7-6(2), 6-3.

With the odds and the momentum against them, MSU was in need of a spark, having lost the first set in all remaining matches as well. Fortunately, that is just what the 113th ranked Perper provided. Coming back from a 6-3 first-set loss at the No. 1 position, the sophomore was able to battle back and take the second set 6-4. Perper dominated the third set 6-1 putting the Bulldogs back in reach of an overall victory at 3-2 down.

Following the set-splitting pattern, Iakovleva fought back from a 6-4 first set deficit to claim court three in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 comeback decision, evening the overall score at 3-3. Iakovleva's win left the fate of the match in the hands of the true freshman Bulldog Ferancova at the No. 5 spot.

Ferancova dropped her first set against Arkansas senior Lukomskaya 6-4, but displayed exceptional perseverance throughout the second set, and was able to take it 6-4. With the match resting on her shoulders, Ferancova played with confidence in the third set, breaking serve at a 3-3 deadlock and holding serve twice to complete the incredible rally for Mississippi State.

"This was a great win and a big confidence boost for our team," MSU head coach Daryl Greenan said. "We have had a few near misses against good teams this year. The girls have been resilient and have continued to work hard and today it paid off. Winning the doubles proved to be crucial but coming back and winning three singles after losing the first set on all six courts was amazing.

"Sasha (Perper) and Kate (Iakovleva) did a great job coming back and winning but Petra (Feroncova)'s comeback over a very good player at #5 to seal the victory was extra special. I am very proud of our team's effort today. Hopefully we can carry some momentum from this win into our last few matches of the season."

State will now return home to host its final three regular season matches, welcoming Kentucky (Apr. 6), Vanderbilt (Apr. 8) and Ole Miss (Apr. 14) to the Pitts Tennis Centre on campus.


Softball
Starkville, Miss. - Mississippi State left 10 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth inning, en route to a 9-3 setback to No. 2 Alabama Sunday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium. The Bulldogs fell to 19-18 overall, including a 3-13 mark inside the Southeastern Conference.

"Our identity as a team is that we fight until the very end," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Teams now recognize they are going to have to bring it for seven full innings, because we are going to scratch and claw our way until the very last out."

Bulldog batters Ka'ili Smith (2-for-4), Sam Lenahan (2-for-4) and Brittany Gates (2-for-3) each collected multiple hits for the Maroon and White, who out-hit the Crimson Tide by a 9-6 margin. One of those nine hits was a seventh-inning solo home run by senior designated player Brittany Bell, her eighth of the 2012 campaign.

For the first time this season, Stuedeman used all five pitchers on her staff. Junior left-hander Stephanie Becker started in the circle and gave up seven runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks. Shana Sherrod, Lindsey Dunlap, Misty Flesher and Kylie Vry combined to give up just one hit and a run over the final 3.2 frames.

The Highway 82 rivals played evenly matched softball through the first three stanzas, heading into the fourth deadlocked in a 1-1 tie. That's when the team from Tuscaloosa broke the game open, beginning with a Kaila Hunt solo home run to lead things off. Becker then loaded the bases thanks to a Bulldog error, bunt single and a walk. That brought up nine-hole hitter Danae Hays, who deposited Becker's first pitch over the wall in left field for a grand slam and a 6-1 lead in favor of the Crimson and White. The visitors continued the inning with a four-pitch walk by Kayla Braud, which caused Stuedeman to replace Becker with Sherrod.

Sherrod threw two pitches, one of which Braud stole second, before being replaced on the rubber by Dunlap. The senior then issued two-consecutive walks to load the bases for Alabama again, before surrendering a deep flyball to center field by Hunt. The sacrifice fly allowed Braud to score, giving the Tide a 7-1 advantage in the middle of the fourth.

State responded with back-to-back singles to open the home half of the fourth, and filled the bases up when redshirt sophomore shortstop Erin Nesbit reached first on interference from the catcher. That brought up Gates, who used her speed to drive in MSU's second run of the day on an infield single. With momentum favoring the Maroon and White, Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina was able get out of the bases-loaded jam unscathed.

Traina repeated the feat in the bottom of the fifth, before her offense plated a run in both the sixth and seventh inning to take a commanding 9-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. That's when Bell homered to right-center field for the final run of the game, as MSU was unable to erase the six-run deficit.

Starkville's team will now take to the road for the next week, beginning with a non-conference midweek tilt against Southern Miss in Ridgeland, Miss. The 6:30 p.m. first pitch against the Golden Eagles will take place at Freedom Ridge Park.

For more information regarding MSU softball, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.


Men's Golf
STARKVILLE, Miss. - For its second in-state tournament of the season, the Mississippi State men's golf team travels to Madison for the BancorpSouth Intercollegiate hosted at the par-72, 7,305-yard Reunion Golf and Country Club beginning with 36 holes Monday.

MSU is riding a streak of eight straight Top 10 finishes this season. With another Top 10, this squad will become only the fourth Maroon and White team to post nine consecutive Top 10 finishes to open a season. The last team to accomplish the feat was the 1998-99 club that posted 12 straight Top 10 cards.

The Bulldogs will face a trio of Magnolia State foes in Jackson State, Southern Miss and host-Ole Miss. Also in the 16-team field is Central Arkansas, No. 20 Central Florida, Frances Marion, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, UNCG, South Alabama, Southeastern Louisiana, UT-Arlington, UAB, UMKC and Wichita State.

Coach Clay Homan is playing a rather fresh line up to the event. Senior Alex Rowland and sophomore Chad Ramey will be making their eighth tournament appearance of the season, but sophomore Barret Edens and junior Mike Genovese will each be making only their second trip. Junior Robi Calvesbert will see his first action of the year in the event.

Ramey is the current team leader with a 72.43 average scoring clip, which ranks him 15th-best in the SEC among active players. It is the 8th-lowest average card by an underclassman.

Live stats will be available through HailState.com beginning at 8:30 a.m. with MSU slated to tee off alongside Middle Tennessee State, UAB and UT-Arlington on holes five through nine.


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