News from MSU Media Relations--April 23

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

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head softball coach Jay Miller announced Wednesday that Illinois prep standout Chrissie Rovtar has signed a letter of intent for the 2010 season.

Rovtar, a corner infielder, has helped the West Chicago Community High School to a 9-1 start and a No. 7 state ranking by the Chicago Sun-Times this season.

A year ago, Rovtar earned DuPage Valley Conference All-Conference honors after guiding the Wildcats to DVC and regional championships and a spot in the state's "Sweet 16." Rovtar hit .335 for head coach Jim Schaudt last season, driving in 16 runs and hitting four home runs, nine doubles and a pair of triples.

"We are excited to have Chrissie joining the Bulldog family next season," Miller said. "She'll give us some depth behind the plate, and she can also play first or third. Chrissie swings a big bat and will be able to give us some more power in the line-up."

A two-time DVC Academic All-Conference selection, Rovtar was named a Daily Herald "Best of 2008" Honorable Mention and a Press Publications Honorable Mention.

During the summer, Rovtar played for Kevin Simpson's Illinois Thunder 18U. She hit .500 last summer for the Thunder, driving in 25 runs on eight doubles, six triples and three home runs. She helped lead the Thunder to the prestigious Colorado Sparkler after finishing second at the Northern Illinois Lightning Tournament.

She played the 2007 season for the Thunder's 16U squad that took third place at the ASA Chicago Metro Championship and second place at the NSA "A" Illinois State Tournament before advancing to the ASA 16U National Tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Rovtar joins an outstanding signing class that includes fellow Chicago-area standout Stephanie Becker, Jessica Cooley (Birmingham, Ala.), Shelby Fisher (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Erin Nesbit (Acworth, Ga.) and Kylie Vry (Des Moines, Iowa). The Bulldogs' recruiting class was named an up-and-coming program by ESPN Rise earlier this year.

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 63rd-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team will be the No. 10 seed in the 2009 Southeastern Conference men's tennis tournament and will face the host school, seventh-seeded Auburn, who is ranked 19th nationally, Thursday in the opening round. The match is set for a 3 p.m. CT start at the Yarbrough Tennis Center in Auburn, Ala.

MSU finished 6-14 in the regular season with a 2-9 record in the SEC, while Auburn went 12-9 and 5-6 in SEC play.

The Bulldogs have won five of their previous six matches against Auburn including a current two-match win streak over the Tigers. This will be the first time the two schools have met in the SEC Championship's 19-year history.

The Bulldogs and the Tigers met earlier this season in an SEC match played at Auburn, where MState claimed a dramatic 4-3 win. MSU opened the match with the doubles point, but found itself facing a 3-2 deficit with two singles matches remaining. Then, sophomore Antonio Lastre tied things up for the Bulldogs at the No. 4 spot to set up senior Ryan Farlow who won a memorable three-set bout at the No. 1 spot over Alexey Tsyrenov of AU, climbing back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to claim the match for State.

True freshman, Artem Ilyushin, ranked 93rd nationally and was victorious in two of his final three matches of the regular season, leads MSU followed by Farlow, who stands 95th nationally. Lastre is fresh off his hard-earned win this past weekend over Ole Miss.

Auburn is led by Tsyrenov who stands at 34th in the country. The Tigers also boast 98th-ranked Tim Puetz. Standing at 10th nationally in doubles is the Tiger tandem of Puetz and Tsyrenov.

"We are healing up from a long regular season and are encouraged by the draw we have for the SEC tournament," said Mississippi State head coach Per Nilsson. "The important thing is we cannot look past Auburn even though we already beat them at their place earlier this season. They are a quality team and we will need our full focus against them for us to have a chance to advance."

The winner of the first round match between MSU and Auburn will face second-seeded Georgia on Friday at 3 p.m. Live stats will be available at

Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's men's and women's track and field squads look to showcase their talents in front of the nation starting Thursday in the 115th running of the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.

The 2009 Penn Relays will be aired nationally on ESPN2 Saturday, beginning at 3 p.m.

The Bulldogs, who claimed three first-place finishes last week at the War Eagle Invitational in Auburn, strive to continue their trend of delivering top-notch results in what is expected to be a capacity crowd at Franklin Field.

"The Penn Relays is a national event that is a huge pressure situation that our kids live for," coach Al Schmidt said.

Schmidt also added one of the main goals of the meet is to leave with national qualifying times, something the Bulldogs have done with success in the past.

The Maroon and White last won the 4x400-meter relay crown in 2006 and are expected to contend for the championship again this season. In addition to the various sprint relays (4x100-, 4x200-, 4x400- meter), MSU has a number of athletes competing for many open events.

Notable athletes are senior Robert Scribner competing in the 5000-meter run, junior Wendy Copeland in the championship section of the long jump and sophomore Matthew Cameron in the Olympic development 1500-meter run.

In addition to the Penn Relays, MSU is also sending several track and field athletes to participate in Southern Miss's Golden Eagles Classic in Hattiesburg.

Women's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's 49th-ranked women's tennis team (10-9, 1-9 SEC) travels to Fayetteville, Ark., Thursday to take on the No. 19 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-7, 6-4 SEC) in the first round of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Coming in as the 12th-seeded team, the Lady Bulldogs will take on fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in a match slated for a 10:30 a.m. CT start.

The two teams have met once this season, with the Commodores getting the most of MSU in a 6-1 triumph. In that contest, State junior Radka Ferancova picked up the Lady Bulldogs' only point of the day after her opponent Kelly Ulery retired in the second-set due to injury.

After going a school-record 10-0 against non-SEC foes, Mississippi State comes into Thursday's match with one win in conference play, its first since 2007. State defeated LSU April 12 in a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind thriller. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt enters the match with six wins in conference play. The Commodores defeated No. 24 Kentucky 7-0 in their last outing.

MSU's senior tandem of Martina Banikova and Elna de Villiers has been impressive this season. Their 12-6 record in doubles has earned them a No. 55 national ranking. Vanderbilt's Jackie Wu (57) and Catherine Newman (61) both hold a national ranking in singles competition, while the VU tandem of Wu and Steinbauer are ranked 38th in the nation.

The winner of Thursday's match will take on the fourth-seeded Florida Gators on Friday. Match time for that contest is also slated for a 10:30 a.m. CT start.

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