Men's Tennis Edged by Vanderbilt, 4-3
STARKVILLE, Miss. --- The 19th-ranked LSU men's tennis team (14-10, 5-7 SEC) jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead over the No. 43 Vanderbilt Commodores, but could not close the door Thursday, dropping their SEC Tournament opener, 4-3, in a heartbreaker at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre in Starkville, Miss.
After junior Stefan Szacinski battled off three match points to come back and defeat Vanderbilt's Anton Kovrigin, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8), it all came down to a final set tiebreaker on court two.
Senior Neal Skupski looked to have command with a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker over Vanderbilt's No. 102 Gonzales Austin, but Austin would not give in, stealing the third set tiebreaker, 7-5, and clinching the match in Vanderbilt's favor.
"We started off great with the doubles point and won five out of six first sets," head coach Jeff Brown said. "I think that the match was lost in the second set of singles. They were very hungry, but at the same time we have to give our team credit. We fought very hard, but in the end, they got us."
In doubles, Olivier Borsos and Roger Anderson started the day off right for the Tigers, cruising to an easy 8-3 victory over Vanderbilt's Blake Bazarnik and Kovrigin.
On the top court, the No. 36 LSU pairing of Skupski and Chris Simpson sealed the deal for the Tigers, upsetting the 17th-ranked Vanderbilt duo of Gonzales Austin and Alex DiValerio, 8-5.
Play on court three was suspended.
Up 1-0, the Tigers looked to take control in singles, winning five out of six first sets.
However, a determined Vanderbilt team came alive across the board in the second set, putting pressure on the Tigers to close out.
After dropping the first two singles matches to Vanderbilt, No. 38 Borsos put air back into a deflated LSU team, breaking Vanderbilt's 40th-ranked Charlie Jones in a tight match to go up 5-4 and eventually win, 6-4.
On court three, 91st-ranked Simpson fought off a match point, but dropped his match in the end to Jeff Offerdahl.
Szacinski played his toughest match of the season, fighting off three match points to defeat Kovrigin, but Skupski could not hold on at the No. 2 spot to clinch the match, falling 7-5 in the third set tiebreaker.
"We have some time now to get healthy and get fit before the NCAA Tournament starts in May," Brown said. "It was a tough loss, but we will learn from our mistakes and move forward."
LSU will return to Baton Rouge, where they will prepare for the NCAA Tournament scheduled to begin on May 11.
A.J. PITTS TENNIS CENTRE
#8 LSU (14-10, 5-6 SEC) vs. #9 Vanderbilt (8-14, 2-9 SEC)
April 19, 2012 - 2 p.m.
National rankings - LSU (#19), Vanderbilt (#43)
1. #36 Neal Skupski/Chris Simpson (LSU) def. #17 Gonzales Austin/Alex DiValerio (VU) 8-5
2. Olivier Borsos/Roger Anderson (LSU) def. Blake Bazarnik/Anton Kovrigin (VU) 8-3
3. Tom Knights/Stefan Szacinski (LSU) v. Charlie Jones/Joe Dorn (VU) 5-3, Susp.
Order of match finish: 2,1
1. #38 Olivier Borsos (LSU) def. #40 Charlie Jones (VU) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
2. #102 Gonzales Austin (VU) def. #54 Neal Skupski (LSU) 6-3, 6-7(1), 7-6 (5)
3. Jeff Offerdahl (VU) def. #91 Chris Simpson (LSU) 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3
4. Blake Bazarnik (VU) def. Tom Knights (LSU) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
5. Stefan Szacinski (LSU) def. Anton Kovrigin (VU) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8)
6. Alex DiValerio (VU) def. David Roberts (LSU) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
Order of match finish: 4,6,1,3,5,2