The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

No. 10 Bulldogs on a roll in final stretch

A day after defeating Louisiana State University 6-1, Sunday’s Senior Day at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre featured Bulldogs Louis Cant, George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin. All three were key contributors in the match as No. 10 Mississippi State defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 4-1 to obtain its second match win in as many days and remain atop the SEC Western Division.
The day did not start off entirely the way the Bulldogs would have liked after the pairing of seniors Ilyushin and Coupland surprisingly fell to the Razorbacks 8-1 in doubles play. The duo had a record of 12-3 coming in, and Coupland said he was disappointed but credited Arkansas for their great play.
“Me and Kit (Ilyushin) after the match said that we’ve never been beaten 8-1, and we were just like, ‘yeah, you’re right’,” he said. “The guys played really, really good double doubles today, and we didn’t make enough, and we didn’t take enough opportunities.”
State faced an early 1-0 deficit following its second doubles loss shortly afterward when senior Cant and sophomore Malte Stropp fell 8-3. However, the Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead following two impressive match wins which ended almost simultaneously as Ilyushin, the No. 15 ranked player in the nation, and Stropp both won in straight sets posting 6-3, 6-1 wins. State’s ability to get the two early singles wins seemed to have shifted the momentum back in the Bulldogs’ favor, and, according to head coach Per Nilsson, it was something the team needed coming out of the locker room.
“College tennis is all about momentum swings, and they had the momentum in the beginning with the doubles,” he said. “We felt that in the locker room that we could very easily make it feel like we were going to win this match within the next 10 minutes if we came out strong.”
The turning point of the match probably came when Cant, who had already won his first set 6-1, battled to avoid his match being sent into a third as he won the second following a 7-3 tiebreak to win it 7-6 and give State a 3-1 lead in the match. The win gave MSU some breathing room with only needing one more match out of three to obtain the victory. Nilsson said the win by Cant definitely played a major role in the Bulldogs’ ability to set themselves up to win the match.
“That was the key to the match,” he said. “If that goes the other way, Arkansas for sure would think they could win on every court out there; instead, we’re looking at all we got to do is win one of these three, and we’re out of here.”
A storybook ending to Senior Day was achieved as Coupland, after dropping his first set 3-6, went on to win the final two 6-2,  6-4 and clinching the match with State’s fourth point. The win improved State’s overall record to 16-4 and 7-1 in conference play. Coupland’s win also gave all three seniors a win as State ended the regular season home schedule in style. Coupland said it is important for him and his fellow seniors to perform well for this team to have further success.
“It was good to feel for all three seniors to have won the singles,” he said. “It shows how much we have meant to this team and this program and hopefully how much we are going to mean to the future of this program. It is important that each three of us fight hard and keep playing the way we’re playing.”
Mississippi State has three matches remaining on the schedule, all of which are on the road, but none are as big as this team’s next foe, No. 9 Kentucky. The Bulldogs are second only to the Wildcats in the SEC overall  standings, and a win this coming weekend on April 6 against the Wildcats could not only lead to State winning the West but also the entire Southeastern Conference regular season crown. Nilsson said winning the West last year was a goal, but this team wants more than a Western Division crown this year.
“This year our goal is to win the whole SEC, and we have to beat Kentucky to do it,” he said. “I know the guys will be really fired up.”
State will round up the regular season with trips to Vanderbilt on April 8 and in-state rival the  school up North on April 14. The Bulldogs will finish out conference play by hosting the SEC Tournament, which will begin the Friday of Super Bulldog Weekend.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
No. 10 Bulldogs on a roll in final stretch