OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss men's tennis sophomore Johan Backstrom came up huge Sunday, winning 6-3 in the third at No. 5 singles to clinch a 4-2 victory against Michigan to send the Rebels to the Sweet Sixteen.
It marks the 16th Sweet Sixteen appearance for the Rebels and first since 2009. Michigan ends its season at 18-8. The Rebels will face UCLA Friday at 11 a.m. CT in Athens, Ga.
With the Rebels leading 3-2 and two matches remaining, Backstrom delivered the goods when his teamed needed him. He won the first set against UM's Barrett Franks, 6-3, but lost the second 6-3. At 3-1 the Swede gained a break to go up 4-1. All he had to do then was hold serve twice, and on match point he aced Franks.
The Rebels came into the weekend hosting for the time since 2008 and excited to show off the newly renovated Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. However, Mother Nature had other ideas. In addition to Saturday's match vs. Binghamton, Sunday's match against Michigan started outside before being forced indoors to the Gillom Sports Center due to rain.
Ole Miss won a tight doubles point to take the early 1-0 lead and that proved to be the difference in the match. The Wolverines won 8-5 at No. 3 doubles. Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen, ranked No. 13 nationally, trailed 26th-ranked Evan King and Shaun Bernstein 5-2 before winning six of the next seven games to take it 8-6. On court two, the twins, Chris Thiemann and Marcel Thiemann, were locked in a tight battle with UM's Barrett Franks and Alex Buzzi. At 7-7, the 17th-ranked Rebel duo broke and served it out to clinch the point.
Lutjen carried the momentum of doubles over into his singles match at No. 3, quickly downing Bernstein 6-2, 6-2 to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead.
Michigan would tie it up with wins on courts one and two. Alex Petrone defeated senior Marcel Thiemann 6-4, 6-4 to make it 2-1. In a battle between the SEC Freshman of the Year, Scholtz, and the Big Ten Player of the Year, King, the Wolverine gained one break in each set to come out on top 6-4, 6-3 and even the overall score.
Fans could sense the tension building, but with three matches left, the Rebels were able to win two first sets in those. Kallberg defeated Michael Zhu 6-4, 7-5 to put Ole Miss within one (3-2), setting up Backstrom's match-clinching win.
"We did a really good job of digging down deep and finding a way to get the doubles point, and then Jonas Lutjen led us off in singles. It was a gutsy performance by the freshman, Kallberg. That match was back and forth, and he did a good job of closing it out in two sets."
The Rebels will face UCLA in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, marking the third time in four years for them to face the Bruins in the NCAA Championships. In 2009, the Rebels lost a heartbreaker to UCLA in the quarterfinals and then again last year in the second round in Los Angeles.
The goal from day one for head coach Steven McRoberts was to lead Ole Miss to its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and its first since 2010. Entering the team's final two matches, McRoberts said he felt as though they were... read more
Battling injury, junior quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench and helped rally Mississippi State to a come-from-behind 17-10 win in last year's Egg Bowl. He led a drive that ended with the game-tying field goal at 10-10 and then... read more
Head coach Hugh Freeze called the Egg Bowl the most prized possession of this university's football program, and getting the Egg Bowl back should be enough motivation for his team entering Saturday's game against Mississippi State. An Independence, Mississippi, native,... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewNov. 17-23, 2014Men's Basketball- Ole Miss posted a 2-0 mark last week with wins over Southern University and Northern Arizona as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, improving to 3-1 on the season.- Ole Miss... read more
Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year, will represent Ole Miss as one of 10 finalists for the C Spire Conerly Trophy, which honors the... read more
It's that busy time of the year with the Ole Miss football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball teams all in action. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was in Ole Miss sports:- A slow start (17-0... read more
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas jumped out to a 17-0 in the first quarter and took advantage of six Ole Miss turnovers on the way to a 30-0 shutout win Saturday in Fayetteville."I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that... read more
Three areas to watch as No. 8 Ole Miss travels to Arkansas in its final road game of the regular season Saturday. Slowing the Hogs' Ground Attack The extra week of preparation, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, should prove beneficial... read more
It's sometimes easy to forget where the Ole Miss football program was just three short years ago, when Hugh Freeze was interviewing for the head coaching position. The Rebels had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewNov. 10-16, 2014Women's Basketball- The Ole Miss women's basketball team opened up the 2014-15 season with two wins over the weekend. The Rebels took down Grambling 92-67 in the season opener on Friday and followed... read more
The Ole Miss football team was off, but it was a busy week in Ole Miss athletics nevertheless, as the men's and women's basketball teams opened their respective seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:-... read more
No. 10 Ole Miss was without several starters and regular contributors against Presbyterian, and many others were limited. But given an extra week of rest, head coach Hugh Freeze said he expects everyone, with the exception of the players out... read more
Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewNov. 3-9, 2014Football- Ole Miss took a break from the rugged Southeastern Conference and earned a 48-0 shutout win over Presbyterian on Saturday.- It was the Rebels' first shutout since beating Tulane 39-0 in 2012.-... read more