FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Mississippi State Lady Bulldog tennis posted three three-set comeback victories in singles Sunday to rally from a 3-1 deficit and defeat No. 29 ranked Arkansas in a thrilling 4-3 decision on the road.
The victory improved State to 7-10 overall, 1-7 in SEC play. Arkansas fell to 10-9, 2-6. The victory was State's highest ranked win since a triumph over #16 LSU in 2009 in Starkville.
With wins on courts one and two, the Lady Bulldogs were able to secure the critical opening doubles point, advancing the team to an early 1-0 lead. Olesya Tsigvintseva and Ekaterina Iakovleva kicked off State's doubles success with an 8-3 triumph against Emily Carbone and Stephanie Roy of Arkansas at the No. 2 position. Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran continued the winning trend, pairing up against Arkansas's Laurie Gingras and Claudine Paulson to notch a closely contested 9-7 victory. The Lady Bulldogs almost pulled off the doubles sweep, but Roseline Dion and Petra Ferancova were unable to hold of the Razorbacks, falling 7-5 in the deciding tiebreaker at the No. 3 position.
Arkansas rallied back strong from MSU's early success, executing three consecutive straight-set wins in singles competition. Roy initiated the string with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against the MSU senior Tsigvintseva on court two. Court four followed suit, as Gingras took down the MSU rookie Tran in a 6-0, 6-2 decision. State's Dion fell in a first-set tiebreaker at No. 6, but Parenteau continued the Razorback's roll, claiming the tiebreaker 7-2, and ultimately taking the match 7-6(2), 6-3.
With the odds and the momentum against them, MSU was in need of a spark, having lost the first set in all remaining matches as well. Fortunately, that is just what the 113th ranked Perper provided. Coming back from a 6-3 first-set loss at the No. 1 position, the sophomore was able to battle back and take the second set 6-4. Perper dominated the third set 6-1 putting the Bulldogs back in reach of an overall victory at 3-2 down.
Following the set-splitting pattern, Iakovleva fought back from a 6-4 first set deficit to claim court three in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 comeback decision, evening the overall score at 3-3. Iakovleva's win left the fate of the match in the hands of the true freshman Bulldog Ferancova at the No. 5 spot.
Ferancova dropped her first set against Arkansas senior Lukomskaya 6-4, but displayed exceptional perseverance throughout the second set, and was able to take it 6-4. With the match resting on her shoulders, Ferancova played with confidence in the third set, breaking serve at a 3-3 deadlock and holding serve twice to complete the incredible rally for Mississippi State.
"This was a great win and a big confidence boost for our team," MSU head coach Daryl Greenan said. "We have had a few near misses against good teams this year. The girls have been resilient and have continued to work hard and today it paid off. Winning the doubles proved to be crucial but coming back and winning three singles after losing the first set on all six courts was amazing.
"Sasha (Perper) and Kate (Iakovleva) did a great job coming back and winning but Petra (Feroncova)'s comeback over a very good player at #5 to seal the victory was extra special. I am very proud of our team's effort today. Hopefully we can carry some momentum from this win into our last few matches of the season."
State will now return home to host its final three regular season matches, welcoming Kentucky (Apr. 6), Vanderbilt (Apr. 8) and Ole Miss (Apr. 14) to the Pitts Tennis Centre on campus.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 4, #29 ARKANSAS 3
April 1, 2012 - Fayetteville, Ark.
1) Alexandra Perper/Naomi Tran (MSU) def. Laurie Gingras/Claudine Paulson (ARK) 9-7
2) Ekaterina Iakovleva/Olesya Tigvintseva (MSU) def. Emily Carbone/Stephanie Roy (ARK) 8-3
1) #113 Alexandra Perper (MSU) def. Emily Carbone (ARK) 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
2) Stephanie Roy (ARK) def. Olesya Tsigvintseva (MSU) 6-1, 6-0
3) Ekaterina Iakovleva (MSU) def. Claudine Paulson (ARK) 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
4) Laurie Gingras (ARK) def. Naomi Tran (MSU) 6-0, 6-2
5) Petra Ferancova (MSU) def. Kate Lukomskaya (ARK) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
6) Catherine Parenteau (ARK) def. Roseline Dion (MSU) 7-6(2), 6-3
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3), Singles (2,4,6,1,3,5)