KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 23 nationally ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team got off to a slow start against No. 24 Tennessee in the final round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, but got back in the match and held a 3-2 lead, before the Vols won the final two matches for a 4-3 victory here Monday night at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.
With the loss, Ole Miss falls to 2-1 on the season, while Tennessee (4-1) advances to the ITA National Team Indoor Final 16.
“We’re extremely disappointed obviously,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “We didn’t play well in the doubles, but even after losing the point, we still had a chance to win it in the end. We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing. When you aren’t playing your best, sometimes you need a little luck to go your way, and we didn’t get any today.”
The doubles point is just one point, but Tennessee gained the early momentum by capturing it with wins on courts one and three in that order. The twin duo of Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann lost 8-3 to UT’s Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis and then William Kallberg and Johan Backstrom dropped their match to Jarryd Chaplin and Peter Nagovnak 8-6 on court three. The Rebels were leading the No. 2 match 6-4.
Ole Miss won three first sets in singles as did Tennessee. In one of those matches, Marcel Thiemann downed Vol Brandon Fickey 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles to put the Rebels on the board. “Marcel played really well at No. 2 both days,” Chadwick said.
Tennessee regained the lead when Chaplin defeated Kallberg 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4, handing the Rebel freshman just his second loss of the early season.
“This was one match, where we felt like the match-up didn’t favor us,” Chadwick said. “Chaplin just slices the ball all the time and rushes you. It was tough for William to get anything going.”
Court six was one of the matches where Tennessee won the first set, but Backstrom turned the tide against Vol Taylor Patrick. The Swede won the second set 6-4 and dominated the third 6-0 to even the overall score at 2.
“Backy didn’t play well in the first set, but he fought hard and won the second set and then played a great third set,” Chadwick said.
The Rebels took the lead momentarily when Chris Thiemann finished off UT’s Edward Jones in straight sets at No. 5. Jones was serving for the first set at 5-4 when he appeared to roll his ankle. Thiemann was able to break and ultimately rally to win a tiebreaker 7-6(5) after trailing in that 4-1. He took advantage of Jones’ limited mobility to win the second set 6-2 giving his team the 3-2 lead.
In a battle between two freshmen at No. 1 singles, two breaks of serve decided the win in UT’s favor. Nik Scholtz was broken by the Vol’s Libietis to drop the first set 6-4. The South African won the second set 6-4, but Liebietis gained a break at 3-2 in the third and held for 6-3 to even the match at 3.
“Libietis is a big hitter. It was just a few points here and there that decided the first set. After we got the second set, it was 50-50. We knew whoever made a mistake first would probably lose,” Chadwick said.
All eyes then turned to No. 3 singles and a battle between junior Jonas Lutjen and UT freshman Reese. Lutjen looked strong in the first set, winning it 6-1, but Reese hung in to win the second set 7-5. Reese then broke Lutjen to start the final set and later gained another break. He served for the match at 5-2, but Lutjen staved off two match points for the break. At 30-30 on his serve, Lutjen missed into the net, and then Reese hit a passing shot by him for 6-3 to clinch the 4-3 win for the Vols.
“We were so close at three, up a set and 5-4, 30-15 in the second. Jonas had a look and the guy guessed right at the net and ended up winning that game and then breaking,” Chadwick said.
“We have to bounce back and get ready to face a very good Mississippi State team next week. They lost a tough match to Texas A&M in their final, so we’ll see who can rebound.”
The Rebels and Bulldogs will meet in the annual River Hills Mississippi Cup Thursday, Feb. 9 in Jackson at the River Hills Tennis Club. The match begins at 5 p.m. For tickets, call (601) 987-4438.
#24 Tennessee 4 #23 Ole Miss 3
Doubles 1. Reese/Libietis (UT) def. Thiemann/Thiemann (OM) 8-3 2. Scholtz/Lutjen (OM) vs. Fickey/Jones (UT) 6-4, sus. 3. Chaplin/Nagovnak (UT) def. Kallberg/Backstrom (OM) 8-6 Order of Finish: 1, 3 Singles 1. Mikeilis Libietis (UT) def. Nik Scholtz (OM) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 2. Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-2, 6-1 3. Hunter Reese (UT) def. Jonas Lutjen (OM) 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 4. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) def. William Kallberg (OM) 6-3, 6-4 5. Chris Thiemann (OM) def. Edward Jones (UT) 7-6(5), 6-2 6. Johan Backstrom (OM) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 Order of Finish: 2, 4, 6, 5, 1, 3
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