COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Thanks to the overall team effort, No. 11-ranked Texas A&M defeated No. 14-ranked Mississippi State, 4-3, last Sunday for the right to advance to the ITA National Indoor Championships which will be hosted by the University of Virginia. Both the Aggies and the Bulldogs held their respective spots in the latest Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings released today.
As hosts for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event last week, A&M beat Purdue, 6-1, in the first round action while Mississippi State beat Princeton.
In Sunday's championship match, Mississippi State took the doubles point and then posted a win at the No. 5 singles position to go ahead, 2-0, in the match. Texas A&M victories by seniors at No. 1 by Alexis Klegou and No. 6 John Lewis evened the match at two points for each squad. The Bulldogs took the lead again at 3-2 by virtue of a three-set win by No. 45 Louis Cant over No. 104 Junior Ore at the No. 3 line.
Most eyes turned to court four where Aggie freshman Jeremy Efferding, ranked No. 73, was taking on Bulldog sophomore Malte Stropp, ranked No. 90. The pair split the first two sets in dominant fashion with Stropp taking the first set, 6-1, and Efferding bouncing back to win the second set, 6-0. The third and deciding set went to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Stropp led 6-4 and needed one more point to clinch the match for Mississippi State. The freshman from Aggieland dug down deep and responded by winning the final four points of the match to take the tiebreaker, 8-6, to keep A&M's hope alive.
"I've been down before in matches and bounced back," Efferding said. "But I felt better knowing that my teammates were battling with me. That final match standing with Colin (Hoover) was one of the most clutch and suspenseful endings I've seen. I am proud of the history of Aggie tennis before I came and to be a part of that on Sunday was really special. We just want to continue the winning tradition."
With the overall match tied at three, the last match standing was on court No. 2 where unranked Colin Hoover, a senior co-captain for the Aggies, was battling James Chaudry, ranked No. 79, for MSU. Hoover won the first set, 6-3, and was in position to clinch the match in the second before Chaudry rallied to take the second set 8-6 in a tiebreaker. In the third set, Hoover was looking to serve out the third set leading 5-4, but Chaudry forced an extra game and Hoover persevered to win 7-5 and punch the Aggies' ticket to the National Indoor Championships.
"As a senior and a co-captain, I couldn't let my team down," Hoover said. "We knew Mississippi State was a very good team and it could come down to one final match. It is definitely the most exciting win of my college career, and for it to break the all-time home winning streak for Aggie athletics just makes it that much sweeter."
The win was the 40th straight home victory for Aggie tennis at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center and eclipsed the 39-game home winning streak strung together by the 1988 and 1989 Aggie baseball teams at Olsen Field.
The Aggies next match is on the road on Super Bowl Sunday against the country's second-ranked team, the Virginia Cavaliers. First serve is set for 1 p.m. eastern and 12 noon central.