KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In a pep talk from Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork before the team left for Knoxville on Wednesday, Bjork talked about overcoming adversity. The Rebels did that Friday, rallying from dropping the doubles point to post a huge 4-1 win at No. 13 Tennessee.
For the sixth time in eight matches, the Rebels (3-5, 1-2) lost the opening point, but unlike their previous six matches, they summoned some of what Bjork talked about in his message Wednesday and took care of business in singles, winning all six first sets against the Vols (11-5, 0-2).
Stefan Lindmark picked the perfect time to play a great match, nearly winning his match before all first sets were even finished. He downed Jarryd Chaplin 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4 singles to even the match.
A pair of freshmen gave the Rebels the lead and set up William Kallberg’s match-clinching victory at No. 2 singles.
Vinod Gowda and Ricardo Jorge delivered in their first SEC road matches. Gowda downed Markus Kerner 6-2, 6-3 at No. 6 singles to give the Rebels the lead for good, and then Jorge won a huge first set tiebreaker on his way to a 7-6(4), 6-1 win at No. 5 singles.
With the Rebels up 3-1 and needing just one more point to clinch, Kallberg was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second. He got broken, but turned around and broke Tennessee’s Hunter Reese, ranked No. 21, for a huge 6-4, 6-4 win to clinch the team victory and the Rebels’ fourth straight in the series.
“This was a great win,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “With our backs to the wall, the guys stepped up and delivered in singles. We are very proud of the team for staying the course and battling after coming in 0-2 and then dropping the doubles point. We especially want to thank our AD, Ross Bjork, for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to the team Wednesday. He really inspired the guys, and it’s great to have the support of our administration.”
When play stopped, the Rebels were on their way to a possible sweep of the singles, as Johan Backstrom was up 3-0 in the third against Brandon Fickey, and Nik Scholtz was up 5-4 in the second set and up a set against No. 32 ranked Mikelis Liebitis at No. 1 singles. That was a battle between two of the SECs best, who came into the match at 2-2 in four previous meetings.
The Rebels will look to continue their momentum as they head to Athens, Ga., Sunday for a showdown with No. 16 Georgia, who defeated Mississippi State 4-1 on Friday. Ole Miss rallied to defeat the Bulldogs 4-3 in Oxford last year.
“We are pumped about this win today, but we are already thinking about Georgia and looking forward to another great match on Sunday,” Chadwick said.
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