OXFORD, Miss. - The Ole Miss men's tennis team picked up three wins against Arkansas-Pine Bluff here Wednesday at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center, as they get ready to host No. 10 Texas A&M in the final regular season SEC match of the year.
The Rebels will celebrate senior Johan Backstrom as well as head coach Billy Chadwick's final SEC home match. Fans coming to the match will receive a commemorative Billy Chadwick collector's cup, free Ole Miss Tennis candy bars and a collector poster of Backstrom.
"Texas A&M is ranked top 10 in the country, and they're tied for the top spot in the conference," Chadwick said. "We know that they are one of the nation's best. We feel like we are starting to play our best tennis. This is our last SEC home match, and we are looking forward to having a great crowd and closing out the regular season on a high note."
The Rebels are led by junior Nik Scholtz, who comes in ranked No. 22 in the nation with a 10-1 record at No. 1 singles, 5-1 in the SEC. He will get another opportunity for a top-20 win, as he faces 14th-ranked Harrison Adams of the Aggies.
Texas A&M comes into Friday's match at 20-5 overall and tied atop the SEC standings at 9-1. The Aggies lone SEC loss came at Kentucky, 4-0. Adams owns a 23-9 overall record, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. The Aggies also boast the No. 6 ranked doubles team in the nation, Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow, who are 9-2 at No. 1 doubles.
"My dad was an Aggie. He has passed away, but I am in hopes that he will give us a little help from above to beat the Aggies," said Chadwick with a smile on his face.
Friday will mark the last SEC match for Backstrom, who has been involved in many big matches for the Rebels, but this one is a little more special.
"This is a huge match, and a very exciting one, especially for me," Backstrom said. "I was actually recruited by both schools. I know their coaches very well. Like my dad said, the circle is complete. I was choosing between Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and my very last home SEC match happens to be against them. It's going to be a special day."
Not only will it be Backstrom's last SEC match at the Galtney Courts, but it will be a farewell for Chadwick, who has witnessed many big wins at the tennis center during his illustrious 35-year career that will come to a close at the end of the season.
"The season has been such a whirlwind, that you are just focused on each match, I haven't really thought about it," Chadwick said. In this short time period of the Aggies joining the conference, it's turned into a big rivalry. We've played them several times, including in the NCAAs, but never here."
It's been a difficult season for the Rebels record-wise, but Chadwick and the team are excited about the opportunity.
"We need to play a great match from top to bottom," Chadwick said. "We've played very well at different spots on different days. We need to put it all together. I felt like our best match was down in Florida. Even though we lost, we really played a good match from top to bottom. We're looking to build on that."
"It's a great opportunity for us. We have nothing to lose," Backstrom added. "The effort has been there, it's just a few points that separate a lot of teams in the SEC. Hopefully we can all play well and have one go our way."
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