JACKSON, Miss. - In a nearly six-hour battle between two of the top teams in the nation, the No. 12 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team fell behind 3-0 to No. 10 Mississippi State in the 16th annual Mississippi Cup at River Hills Club, then saved seven match points to make it interesting, before the Bulldogs closed it out with a three-set win at four for the 4-2 victory.
The loss gives State their second straight win in the Mississippi Cup and their fourth in a row overall. Ole Miss had won 26 straight in the series and 10 in a row in the Cup before State won the regular season meeting two years ago to begin the streak.
Four of the matches went three sets, and unfortunately for the Rebels, three of them went to State, including the clincher at No. 4, when Bulldog freshman Jordan Angus topped Rebel junior Johan Backstrom 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
"It was a tough loss," associate head coach Toby Hansson said. "We felt like we had some chances in doubles, and then we didn't get the point. The No. 1 singles match could have gone either way, it just came down to a couple of points here or there. At No. 2 singles we had some chances in the third set, had a couple of games we could have actually won and didn't. We had game points that we lost, and that made the difference."
The match began with State taking the always important doubles point. After the two teams split the top two matches, State's Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont edged Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark 8-6 at No. 3 for the point.
State went ahead 2-0 when senior Jonas Lutjen, ranked No. 5 in the nation, dropped his match to State's 81st-ranked Malte Stropp 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 at No. 2 singles.
Sophomore Nik Scholtz, ranked No. 33, fell to Bulldog freshman Bogaerts, ranked No. 25, in three sets in their third meeting of the year. Scholtz had won the first one, but Bogaerts won the second one in three sets. This time, it would go three as well, with Bogaerts breaking Scholtz in the 12th game of the third set to win the match 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 and put State ahead 3-0.
William Kallberg kept the Rebels' hopes alive by saving seven match points against James Chaudry at No. 3 singles, including four in the tiebreaker. Chaudry won the first set 6-3 and served for the second up 5-4. Kallberg broke and then held to go up 6-5. In the tiebreaker he saved four match points from down 6-2 and won it 10-8 to make it 3-1.
"Three was an incredible comeback, a very high level from both players," Hansson said. "Both No. 2 and 3 were played at a high level from both guys. William showed incredible fighting spirit, never giving up. He hung in there and kept his composure."
Lindmark, a freshman who had only played one set in the first two matches of the season, defeated Bulldog freshman Pedro Dumont at No. 5 singles 6-4, 6-3 to put Ole Miss within one before Angus clinched it.
"We had two or three games where we could have won and really made a move in the third set at four, and we didn't get them," Hansson said. "We were maybe a little tentative and tight. When Backy was down 1-5, he started playing a little looser and won a couple of games. Stefan was extremely solid for his first big match. He had great composure and I was very impressed. It's really fun to watch Stefan play."
When the match stopped, senior Adrian Forberg Skogeng was up 4-3 in the second and serving after having lost the first set 6-0 to MSU freshman Stefan Vinti.
The Rebels will now prepare for a match against Portland on Feb. 13 followed by the ITA National Team Indoor in Seattle, Wash., which begins Feb. 15.
"We have a quick turnaround. We have some things to work on, we're still improving on some things," Hansson said. "There are some areas we can get better. Hopefully we can use this opportunity to learn from it and get better and have a great tournament in Seattle."
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