No. 39 LSU men's tennis (11-8) and No. 47 Auburn (6-12) are two teams looking to gain some momentum heading into the SEC Championships. Each team had lost eight of their last 11 before the match, making it even more important, as wins tend to be hard to come by in the SEC.
Despite Auburn coming into this match with a not-so-stellar 6-11 record, that record was deceptive due to the same reason LSU has struggled as of late. Auburn has faced off against some of the best teams in the SEC, including No. 3 Tennessee, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 13 Georgia.
So, LSU could not underestimate this team, especially because Auburn lost those matches by a combined four points. They also narrowly lost to No. 23 Tulane, who recently dismantled LSU in a 6-1 victory.
It was hard to know who the underdog in this match was and who would ultimately come out on top, but from the beginning, it appeared LSU had the upper hand.
After losing the first point in doubles, the team needed Courts One and Five to go their way. This was a difficult task, especially since Auburn had the No. 41 duo in the country in Finn Murgett and Tad Maclean at Court One.
But LSU prevailed, earning 6-4 victories on both courts, and the doubles point was theirs. Considering that on paper this match was expected to be close, that was immensely important for the Bayou Bengals.
That success would carry over into the first half of singles, as Coach Chris Brandi believes that losing the doubles point demotivated Auburn, slowed them down and increased LSU’s confidence.
“I told our guys that we didn’t have to win the doubles, but I thought that Auburn thought that they needed to,” Brandi said. “When we won the dubs, I really think that took a lot out of them […] and I think that helped us mentally.”
Though Auburn quickly evened the score with a clean sweep of LSU’s Tom Pisane, LSU came out of the first sets holding leads on four of six courts, including Ronnie Hohmann earning the first set on Court One with a close, tiebreaker win over No. 42 Tyler Stice.
However, it still appeared this match would come down to the wire, with Auburn gaining a 2-1 lead in the match and LSU’s Rafael Wagner and Boris Kozlov suffering setbacks early in their second sets on Courts Two and Five, at one point being down 5-2 and 4-1 respectively.
But both Bayou Bengals would make strong efforts to comeback, with Boris Kozlov ultimately being successful. Kozlov would win five straight games to earn LSU’s first singles point of the afternoon, a point that would turn out to be very important.
“That’s why we practice every day and give our bests, for moments like this,” Kozlov said regarding his comeback. “I just want to be a guy remembered here for always competing, always staying in the match and doing it every point for my teammates because they do the same.”
Soon after, LSU would clinch Court One, Court Six and the match. Freshman Benjamin Ambrosio would have another impressive victory after taking a hard-fought second set and Hohmann would take down No. 42 Tyler Stice 7-6, 6-1, earning his first win against a player that’s currently ranked since early February.
Brandi was proud of his players for showing toughness in a hard-fought loss, mentioning that multiple players had barely practiced this week due to sickness.
“They showed a lot of toughness because some guys barely practiced the last two weeks and two of [those guys] won today,” Brandi said. “It wasn’t a perfect match, but any win in the SEC is a big win so, it’s a good day for the Tigers.”