EAST LANSING – The Michigan State men’s tennis team is rolling. They currently sit at 8-0, and are ranked No. 19 nationally by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
The hot start continued as the Spartans defeated Middle Tennessee State 5-2 and Bellarmine by the same score on Sunday.
“This is where we expected to be,” junior Max Sheldon said. “We have big goals for our team this year and right now we’re on the right track.”
Sheldon starred for MSU today. The No. 59 singles player in the country won a point for MSU in both meets and was the first one to defeat their opponent both times. In addition, Sheldon won twice in the doubles phase. That is no surprise, as he and sophomore Ozan Baris won the national championship together last year.
Middle Tennessee State is one of the tougher teams the Spartans have faced this year. The Blue Raiders beat No. 22 Mississippi State 4-3 on Friday. They received votes to be ranked in the top 25 in the latest poll by the ITA on Jan. 31. The programs had met three times in the prior four seasons. MTSU won all three times.
MSU head coach Harry Jadun said definitively, “that Middle Tennessee State team is a top 25 team.”
The win did not come easily. Middle Tennessee State won the doubles point. MSU had to grit out the win by taking five out of the six singles matches.
The critical point in the first dual meet was when MSU’s top players, singles No. 6 Ozan Baris and No. 12 graduate Ronald Hohmann III, an LSU transfer, both saw their matches go to a third set after dropping the second set.
Baris got dominated in his second set, 6-1, and needed to find a way to turn the momentum around.
MSU’s top player handled that by simply telling himself to “completely forget about it and just play one more good set,” and to do what he needs to help the team out.
Both Baris and Hohmann managed to rally and win their respective third sets and matches within moments of one another, turning a 2-2 tie into an MSU win.
MSU won all three third sets against the Blue Raiders. The third came during freshman Taym Alazmah’s victory after the meet result was sealed by Baris.
Bellarmine’s loss to the Spartans moves them to 1-6 on the year. Michigan State beat Bellarmine 5-2 in their only prior meeting last year.
The Knights’ coach, Will Davis, is a Michigan State tennis alumnus. He was a two-time captain and has guided Bellarmine’s program through their recent jump to Division I.
Coach Jadun did not play Michigan State’s top players, Baris or Hohmann, for the second meet. After MSU won the doubles point, Bellarmine was able to tie the meet up at two apiece. Michigan State responded with three straight wins by senior Luke Baylis, No. 116 senior Graydon Lair, and graduate Sebastien Collard to win the meet.
The Spartans and Coach Jadun turn to a “good Clemson team” next. The Tigers sit at 2-2 on the year, with one of those losses being to second-ranked South Carolina. Friday’s match, set for 6 p.m., is the second time MSU and Clemson have met and the first time they will play in East Lansing. Clemson took the lone meeting back in 2017, 4-3.