Kentucky Takes Down Mississippi State to Open SEC Play
STARKVILLE, Miss.– The Kentucky Wildcats, ranked 58th in the latest ITA top-75, came out victorious in its Southeastern Conference opener, knocking off No. 69 Mississippi State by a final score of 5-2. The Cats (6-3, 1-0) snapped a 14-match losing streak in regular-season SEC play that dated to April 8th, 2021. The match was played outdoors at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Center, marking the first time the Wildcats have braved the elements in 2023.
The Wildcats have now won two consecutive road matches, a feat the team has not accomplished since March 2021. Additionally, Kentucky won its SEC opener for the first time since the 2020 season. Kentucky has now won its last two matches at State, as the program’s previous last conference win before tonight also took place in Starkville.
Freshman Zoe Hammond led the way for the Cats, clinching the doubles point alongside Ellie Eades before claiming the first ranked win of her collegiate career in singles. Eades also went 2-0 on the day.
Kentucky opened the match by winning the doubles point for the eighth time in nine matches. Mills, teamed up with Elizabeth Stevens, were the first pair to claim victory, as they claimed a 6-3 decision on the top court. MSU was able to even doubles action with a tiebreaker win on Court 3, but the Cats would hold firm. Eades and Hammond broke their Bulldog opposition on a deciding point to clinch the 1-0 advantage.
Playing in the first SEC match of her career, Hammond would bring her momentum from doubles onto the singles court, as she made quick work of No. 66 Maria Rizzolo at No. 5 Singles. Hammond would win the first set by a singular break before racing out to a 6-0 throttling to clinch the match. The win snapped a three-match skid for the freshman.
Mississippi State bring the match score within one with a victory at No. 2 Singles, as Stevens fell to Gia Cohen.
Lidia Gonzalez would stretch the Wildcat advantage with her first singles victory since the season’s opening match. Playing at No. 4 Singles, the Spanish sophomore would sail to a victory over Chloe Cirotte, 6-2, 6-3.
Eades, competing at No. 3 Singles for the first time in her career, would clinch the victory for the Wildcats. The sophomore from Floyds Knobs, Ind. was able to claim the win on her fourth match point to dispatch Alexandra Mikahailuk, 6-4, 6-4.
The two teams decided to play out the match, allowing Kentucky to add an extra point on the board. No. 73 Florencia Urrutia would bounce back from a tough first set to win at No. 1 Singles. Despite the slow start, Urrutia would break Emmanouela Antonaki to force the match to a second-set tiebreak, before racing away with the 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 decision. At No. 6 Singles, Mills would also force her match to three sets, but ultimately fell to Dharani Niroshan to bring the dual to its final score.
Kentucky will close out their Mississippi swing with a date against No. 73 Ole Miss to close out the opening weekend of conference play. Action from Oxford will commence on Sunday, March 5th, at 2 p.m. EST and take place at Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
Fans can follow along with live stats or watch on Track Tennis by clicking here. The Cats will return to Lexington. next weekend to battle Georgia, Bellarmine, and Tennessee. The matches will mark the first time Kentucky will play inside the friendly confines of the Boone since January 25.
Kentucky vs. Mississippi State
Mills/Stevens (UK) def. Antonaki/Cirotte (MSU) 6-4
Eades/Hammond (UK) def. Mikhailuk/Niroshan (MSU) 7-5
Cohen/Rizzolo (MSU) def. Gonzalez/Urrutia (UK) 7-6 (3)
No. 73 Florencia Urrutia (UK) def. Antonaki (MSU)
Cohen (MSU) def. Elizabeth Stevens (UK) 6-2, 6-4
Ellie Eades (UK) def. Mikhailuk (MSU) 6-4, 6-4
Lidia Gonzalez (UK) def. Cirotte (MSU) 6-2, 6-3
Zoe Hammond (UK) def. No. 66 Rizzolo (MSU) 6-4, 6-0
Niroshan (MSU) def. Makayla Mills (UK) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
Order of Finish:
Doubles—1, 3, 2
Singles—5, 2, 4, 3, 1, 6
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