OXFORD, Miss. - Head coach Billy Chadwick built a tennis program at Ole Miss that ranks among the nation's elite and Friday, in his last SEC home match of his career, the players delivered him a thrilling 4-3 victory against No. 10 Texas A&M on a beautiful day at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The Rebels also celebrated Senior Day and their lone senior, Johan Backstrom.
"This was a great team effort, they played their hearts out from the beginning of the match until the end," said a water-drenched Chadwick. "It was a great way to end the SEC regular season."
With their backs against the wall as far as postseason play was concerned, the Rebels needed a big win, and Friday they earned it from top to bottom. With the match tied at 3, sophomore Stefan Lindmark finished off a huge three-set win against Aggie senior Junior Ore to clinch the victory, as the celebration ensued.
Lindmark, who had been there before during his freshman year in 2013, won his first set 6-4, and was up 4-2 in the second. Ore came back to force a tiebreaker, which he dominated 7-6(1). He used that momentum to break Lindmark in the first game of the third, but the Sweden native never flinched. Lindmark broke back and then broke for 5-3. He only dropped one point on his serve in clinching the Rebels' first top-10 victory of the year.
The stage was set with a huge doubles point win by the Rebels. Texas A&M would take the No. 2 match 8-3, but Lindmark and junior William Kallberg won a tiebreaker against No. 6 ranked Ore and his partner, Jackson Withrow, 8-7(3). All eyes then turned to court three, where Backstrom and Joe Rogers were locked in a tiebreaker as well, against A&M's Jeremy Efferding and Jordan Szabo. Backstrom and Rogers faced two match points in the breaker at 6-4, but won the final four points to clinch the early 1-0 lead for the Rebels.
The Rebels carried the momentum from winning the doubles into singles, winning four first sets. One of those, freshman Ricardo Jorge handed Withrow a 6-2, 6-4 loss at No. 5 singles to make it 2-0 Rebels.
Nik Scholtz put the Rebels ahead 3-0 with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 10 ranked Harrison Adams at No. 1 singles. Scholtz improved to 11-1 at No. 1 singles and 6-1 in the SEC. He has won 13 of his last 14 matches and now has three wins over top-15 ranked players this season.
The Aggies came into the match tied atop the league standings for a reason, and the Rebels knew they would have to fight until the end.
Szabo gave A&M their first point when he defeated Rebel freshman Vinod Gowda 6-3, 6-3 on court six. In a highly competitive match on court two, Vinsant outlasted Kallberg 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to put the Aggies within one, 3-2.
Shortly after that, Efferding finished off a three-set win against Backstrom at No. 3 singles to square the match just as Lindmark and Ore were in the middle of the third set at four.
The Rebels will host a doubleheader against Alcorn State Sunday at 10 a.m. to close out the weekend before next week's SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
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