Mississippi State – Official Athletics Website

Mississippi State – Official Athletics Website

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State women’s tennis saw matches come down to a critical third set on the final court on consecutive days this weekend.

And in both instances, it was the Bulldogs that came out on top.

MSU downed UAB 4-3 on Saturday with Chloé Cirotte coming up clutch to clinch the match. On Sunday, it was Maria Rizzolo’s turn to provide the heroics in helping the Bulldogs defeat Belmont 4-3.

Rizzolo spit her first two sets on Court 1 with Mariia Hlahola 4-6, 6-1 and saved match point in the third to send it into a tiebreaker with the match knotted 3-3 between the two teams. The junior from Palm Gardens, Florida was able to send the crowd gathered inside the Rula Tennis Pavilion home happy with her 7-6(4) victory in the tiebreaker that pushed MSU to 6-0 on the year.

“It felt great,” Rizzolo said. “I’ve never been in that situation before, so I was shaking a little. But after I won and having all my teammates come running towards me and hugging me was the best feeling.”

The match was tight throughout the afternoon and despite the Bulldogs’ Dhrani Niroshan and Alessia Tagliente earning a 6-2 win over Vesa Gjinaj and Hana Sokolovic, it was the now 3-2 Bruins that dealt the initial blow by claiming the doubles point.

Mississippi State’s Jayna Clemens made short work of Sokolovic 6-2, 6-1 to even the score early in singles and improved the freshman to 3-0 on the weekend. Belmont gained back its advantage as Anastasiya Zholdakova defeated Athina Pitta 7-5, 6-3 and held a 2-1 lead for most of the match.

However, the momentum began to shift late as Alexandra Mikhailuk surpassed Abi Solomon 6-4, 7-6(4) and Tagliente rallied over Viktoria Kliimand 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to push the Bulldogs back in front. Belmont was able to force things to the final court when Gjinaj edged Cirotte in a tight 7-6(7), 6-4 match.

“It was another close match and that’s what it’s about, building character and building the foundations,” said head coach Chris Hooshyar. “I’m incredibly proud of my two seniors (Cirotte and Mikhailuk). They’re my captains and are planting the seeds for a tree that they probably won’t get to shade under. That’s selfless and I’m proud and grateful to be their coach. Whenever we start to have success here, it’s crucial that we don’t forget those two that laid those foundations.”

Sunday’s win closed out an undefeated six-match homestand for State. The Bulldogs will now venture out on the road for the first time with Hooshyar, traveling to Memphis on Feb. 11 for a noon match against the Tigers.

Mississippi State 4, Belmont 3
Rula Tennis Pavilion | Starkville, Miss.
Feb. 4, 2024
1. Mariia Hlahola/Anastasiya Zholdakova (BU) def. Alexandra Mikhailuk/Maria Rizzolo (MSU) 6-1
2. Viktoria Kliimand/Abi Solomon (BU) def. Chloe Cirotte/Athina Pitta (MSU) 6-4
3. Dharani Niroshan/Alessia Tagliente (MSU) def. Vesa Gjinaj/Hana Sokolovic (BU) 6-2
Order of finish: (3,1,2)
1. Maria Rizzolo (MSU) def. Mariia Hlahola (BU) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(4)
2. Vesa Gjinaj (BU) def. Chloe Cirotte (MSU) 7-6(7), 6-4
3. Alexandra Mikhailuk (MSU) def. Abi Solomon (BU) 6-4, 7-6(4)
4. Anastasiya Zholdakova (BU) def. Athina Pitta (MSU) 7-5, 6-3
5. Alessia Tagliente (MSU) def. Viktoria Kliimand (BU) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
6. Jayna Clemens (MSU) def. Hana Sokolovic (BU) 6-2, 6-1
Order of finish: (6,4,3,5,2,1)
For more information on the Bulldog women’s tennis program, visit or search for “HailStateWT” on X, Instagram and Facebook.