SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In a highly competitive NCAA first round match, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team rallied from losing the doubles point to defeat Northwestern 4-1 here Saturday at the Courtney Tennis Center to advance to the second round.
With the win, the Rebels (16-13) will face No. 14 ranked Notre Dame, who defeated Green Bay 4-0, Sunday at 12 p.m. CT for a berth in the Sweet Sixteen. Northwestern ends its season at 21-11.
“Northwestern did a fantastic job of coming out and playing well in doubles and continuing that in singles,” head coach Billy Chadwick. “It was an uphill battle the whole day, and anything short of a great effort on any court, we lose this match. I am very proud of the guys.”
After Northwestern took a close doubles point, the Rebels found themselves down in three of the singles matches. Ole Miss was able to get three first sets, including sophomore Stefan Lindmark, who defeated NU’s Konrad Zieba 6-2, 7-5 at No. 3 to tie the match.
The match swung in the Rebels favor with the clutch play of two guys playing in their first ever NCAA Championships. Freshman Ricardo Jorge gutted out a first set tiebreaker against Wildcat Strong Kircheimer 7-6(4) and then won the second set 6-2 to give Ole Miss a 2-1 lead.
The remaining four matches went three sets. Redshirt freshman Vinod Gowda, also playing his first NCAA match, rallied to defeat Alex Pasareanu 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 on court six to give the Rebels a 3-1 advantage.
When the match is tight and the season is on the line, who better to have on court, then a senior who has been there before in a tight situation. With juniors Nik Scholtz and William Kallberg locked in third sets themselves, senior Johan Backstrom finished off a comeback of his own, against Mihir Kumar, to clinch the victory. After dropping the first set 6-3, Backstrom won the final two sets 6-2, 6-4, respectively, to keep the season alive.
“All the guys did a fantastic job of not quitting and continuing to fight," Chadwick said. "It shows what these guys have learned this spring. We play these types of matches in the SEC day in and day out. You get tougher. The guys just wouldn’t take no for answer today.”
When play was stopped, Scholtz had taken a 4-2 lead in the final set of his match, and Kallberg had gone ahead 6-5 in his third set.
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