NASHVILLE, Tenn. – That is what it felt like Sunday at the Currey Tennis Center when No. 35 Vanderbilt earned a dramatic 4-3 victory over No. 38 Mississippi State.
The win by Vanderbilt (11-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) ended exactly as the Commodores’ match against South Carolina ended on March 2. In each match the score was tied at three with only Nick Cromydas’ singles match remaining. Both times, Cromydas came out on top and clinched the overall match for Vanderbilt.
“I’ve coached a lot of great players,” Vanderbilt head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “I’ve coached a lot of NCAA champions and there may be some players out there that are more talented than (Cromydas), there may have been players that I’ve coached that have prettier games, but there aren’t any that are tougher.”
Playing in the No. 2 position against No. 50 Philippe Frayssinoux, Cromydas dropped the first set 7-6(6) despite leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Instead of crumbling from the tough loss, Cromydas answered with a 6-3 win in the second set, setting up the dramatic third set, which last an hour and a half and had four of the last five games go to deuce.
Trailing 3-4 in the decisive set, Cromydas won two straight games to take a 5-4 lead with an opportunity to serve for the match. However, Frayssinoux evened the score at five.
With the set even at five games apiece, Cromydas trailed Frayssinoux 40-love before rallying back to break his serve in the fourth straight game that went to deuce. Cromydas then won the next game to win the set, 7-5, and clinch the match, 4-3 for the Commodores. The loss dropped Mississippi State’s record to 8-8 overall and 2-6 in the SEC.
“I just respect the kid so much because the tougher it gets, the better he is,” said Duvenhage of Cromydas’ play. “He just raised the level of his game there and in spite of how well his opponent was playing, he would not go away. He epitomizes what toughness is all about.”
“This win was especially huge because it was Evan’s (Dufaux) and Ryan’s (Preston) last home match,” Duvenhage said. “To go out with a win like that at home is just incredible.”
The win also ended Vanderbilt’s home slate with a 9-2 record.
“I think it was great that we were 9-2,” Duvenhage said. “Hopefully, we can keep getting better and maybe next year we can be 11-0.”
After dropping the doubles point, Vanderbilt earned two straight victories in singles to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The first win came courtesy of No. 101 Vijay Paul, who won a 6-2, 6-2 decision over MSU’s Christopher Doerr in the No. 3 position. The win for Paul halted a four-match losing skid.
VU took a 2-1 lead in the match when Bryant Salcedo earned his second SEC win in his last three matches with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Antonio Lastre in the No. 5 position.
The lead would not last long, however, as Mississippi State’s Ivan Bjelica (No. 37) defeated No. 75 Ryan Preston, 6-4, 6-2, in the No. 1 position.
With the score tied, Vanderbilt needed to win two of the remaining three matches, which each were in the third set.
James Moye got Vanderbilt headed in the right direction with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Pjotrs Necajevs in the No. 6 position to give VU a 3-2 lead in the match. For Moye, the win came in his first dual match of the year and his first match since Oct. 5. It was also his first SEC win.
Holding a 3-2 lead in the match, Vanderbilt’s Evan Dufaux was unable to clinch the match for the Commodores, falling, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, to MSU’s Ryan Farlow in the No. 4 position.
Dufaux’s loss set the stage for Cromydas’ victory.
In doubles play, Vanderbilt won the first completed match in the No. 1 position before losing the remaining two matches. The loss in doubles was Vanderbilt’s fifth in a row.
Vanderbilt’s win came courtesy of Ryan Preston and Vijay Paul in the No. 1 position. The duo moved its doubles record to 2-1 with an 8-3 win over Ivan Bjelica and Philippe Frayssinoux of Mississippi State. The score was 4-3 in favor of Vanderbilt before Preston and Paul won four straight games to take the match.
Mississippi State knotted the score at one when the Bulldogs’ duo of Ryan Farlow and Pjotrs Necajevs topped Vanderbilt’s duo of Nick Cromydas and Bryant Salcedo, 8-4. The loss was the second in a row, but just the third of the spring for Cromydas and Salcedo. The match was even at four before the Bulldogs were able to win four straight games to take the match.
The Bulldogs were able to clinch the doubles point in the No. 3 position, as Tanner Stump and Christopher Doerr defeated Vanderbilt’s duo of Evan Dufaux and Adam Baker, 8-5. Baker and Dufaux were down as much as 4-1, but fought back to make the score 7-5 before falling.
Vanderbilt returns to the courts on April 4 when the Commodores make the trek to Knoxville to face cross-state rival Tennessee at 3 p.m.
No. 35 Vanderbilt (11-6, 3-5 SEC) def. No. 38 Mississippi State (8-8, 2-6 SEC), 4-3
1. Ryan Preston/Vijay Paul (VU) def. Ivan Bjelica/Philippe Frayssinoux (MSU), 8-3
2. Ryan Farlow/Pjotrs Necajevs (MSU) def. Nick Cromydas/Bryant Salcedo (VU) 8-4
3. Tanner Stump/Christopher Doerr (MSU) def. Evan Dufaux/Adam Baker (VU), 8-5
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3
1. No. 37 Ivan Bjelica (MSU) def. No. 75 Ryan Preston (VU), 6-4, 6-2
2. Nick Cromydas (VU) def. No. 50 Philippe Frayssinoux (MSU), 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5
3. No. 101 Vijay Paul (VU) def. Christopher Doerr (MSU), 6-2, 6-2
4. Ryan Farlow (MSU) def. Evan Dufaux (VU), 2-6, 7-5, 6-3
5. Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Antonio Lastre (MSU), 6-1, 6-3
6. James Moye (VU) def. Pjotrs Necajevs (MSU), 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
Order of Finish: 3, 5, 1, 6, 4, 2