STARKVILLE – Mississippi State rocketed its way out of the first round of SEC Championship the first time since 2005 Wednesday, breaking an eight-match losing skid in the event with a 4-2 triumph against the No. 56-ranked Missouri Tigers at MSU’s A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. State is hosting the five-day event this weekend as part of Super Bulldog Weekend festivities.
The Lady Bulldogs, who improved to 9-13 on the year, now face fifth-seeded Tennessee in the second round at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Pitts Tennis Centre for the right to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. The win was State’s second over the Tigers in just four days on the MSU campus, also having defeated them Sunday 4-2 to close out the regular season.
MSU clinched Wednesday’s win on court 6 when true freshman Sarai Flores rallied to claim a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 win against Missouri’s Madison Ryhner.
“I knew I had to stay focused,” said Flores, a freshman playing in her first championship. “I had to put the first set behind me and move forward.”
Mississippi State caught the early momentum by claiming the doubles point. MSU’s No. 68-ranked tandem of Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran initiated the Bulldog winning trend, expanding the pair’s overall record to 13-9, with a dominant 8-1 triumph against Missouri’s duo of Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Alex Clark at the No. 1 position. Missouri responded with a court 3 win to even the score, as Elisha Gabb and Madison Rhyner defeated Petra Ferancova and Sarai Flores of MSU 8-4.
MSU’s Georgiana Patrasc and Roseline Dion then sealed the doubles point in a down-to-the-wire battle on court 2. Patrasc and Dion took down Mizzou’s Rachel Stuhlmann and Maria Christensen in a 9-8(2) decision, breaking back at 8-7 down, to give MSU the early 1-0 lead.
Lady Bulldog tennis dropped the first set at five positions to begin singles competition, but the team battled through the deficits, making a big comeback to clinch the win.
Singles play began in favor of Missouri, as the Lady Tigers locked the overall score at 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-0 victory for Gabb against MSU’s Ferancova on court 4. Dion then gave the Lady Bulldogs a 2-1 edge with a 6-3, 6-2 court 5 take down against Clark of Missouri.
MSU stretched its overall lead to 3-1 as Lady Bulldog veteran Perper posted her 18th victory of the season against Missouri’s Stuhlmann. Perper strormed back after dropping the first set to take the match on court 2 in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 decision.
A determined Missouri team fought to remain within reach of a win, bringing the score to 3-2 with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 triumph for Christensen of the Lady Tigers against MSU’s Naomi Tran at the No. 3 position. But Flores’s clinching victory came soon after to advance the Lady Bulldogs to the next round of the tournament.