Bulldog Netmen Drop River Hills Cup to Rebels

JACKSON, Miss. - After opening the season with a 4-0 win over UAB last Friday, Mississippi State's 23rd-ranked men's tennis team was back in action Thursday night in Jackson, taking on fifth-ranked, arch-rival Mississippi in the annual River Hills Cup. Despite some tightly-contested matches and a tough fight from the Bulldogs, UM ultimately prevailed 4-0.

The Bulldogs (1-1) fell to the Rebels (3-0) for the 16th straight time, the seventh consecutive setback in the River Hills Cup matchup.

The Rebels got off to a solid start Thursday evening with triumphs in doubles. UM grabbed an 8-4 win at the No. 3 position before the pair of Jakob Klaeson and Bram ten Berge clinched the opening point with an 8-6 victory over Bulldogs Philippe Frayssinoux and Pierre Mouillon at No. 2.

In singles, UM took a commanding lead in the first three matches on court, taking the first set in each. But the Bulldogs would rally to split sets in two of them, and nearly did so in the other as well. Unfortunately, MSU would not be able to muster a win in any of the three matches, giving the Rebels the team victory.

Rebel ten Berge, ranked 83rd nationally, was the first off the court to give UM a 2-0 advantage as he downed MSU's Mouillon 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the No. 3 position. Providing a 3-0 lead would be 22nd-ranked Eric Claesson, who held off a second-set charge from State's Jose-Carlos Pinto for a 6-3, 7-6(5) win. Pinto served for the second frame at 6-5.

The match-clincher came at the top spot in the lineup, where State junior Ivan Bjelica, ranked 74th nationally, pushed 26th-ranked Rebel Erling Tveit to the limit before dropping a close 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 decision. Play in the two other matches that were just underway was suspended at that point.

"They got us again, but I was very pleased with the effort from our team tonight," MSU head coach Sylvain Guichard said. "Doubles was tough, but we played better and I liked our performance there. And we had a chance to win all three of the singles matches. Even if we had gotten a couple of them, we would have a had a great chances to win this match.

"What we get out of this match tonight is that we know we can compete head-to-head with the elite teams in the country. The key is going to be getting our team to start believing that a little bit more as we move on this season. These results tonight should give us a lot of confidence in terms of what we are capable of achieving."

The Bulldogs return to action next weekend, hosting 64th-ranked South Alabama on Friday, the 17th, at 2 p.m. Next weekend's matchup with Tulane that was slated for Sunday, the 19th, has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

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