OXFORD, Miss. - The No. 10 nationally ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team will be seeking its 19th trip to the National Team Indoor Championships as the Rebels host the ITA Kick-Off Weekend Saturday and Sunday at the Gillom Sports Center. This weekend serves as the first and second round of the National Team Indoor Championships.
The Rebels will face No. 26 ranked Michigan in the first round Saturday at 10 a.m., prior to the men's basketball game against Mississippi State at 3 p.m. The rest of the four-team field includes No. 22 Illinois and No. 25 Clemson.
"We've got three great teams coming to Oxford and it should be a big weekend," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "You are looking at four teams that are very equal; all of them are really strong from top to bottom, our team included. I don't think there is anyone that wouldn't say this is the strongest regional in the country. We have to take advantage of playing at home in front of a big crowd. That could be the difference in us advancing to the final 16."
On Sunday, the losers of Saturday's matches will meet at 9 a.m. followed by the winners at 1 p.m. The team that wins both matches this weekend will advance to the National Team Indoor Final 16 in Houston, Texas Feb. 14-17.
Ole Miss has participated in the National Team Indoor Championships 18 times including last year. The Rebels reached the Final 16 with a 4-1 win over Columbia in the first round and a 4-0 victory against NC State in the second round.
"It's a huge opportunity and it's a very important weekend for us," senior Johan Backstrom said. "All three teams coming here are really good teams. If we get through these two matches, it's a key for the rest of the season. Going to the National Indoor, where you are guaranteed three matches against the top teams in the country, can be a huge importance the rest of the season as far as rankings."
The Rebels opened the spring season last weekend at the MLK Invitational hosted by Georgia Tech in Atlanta and also featured No. 3 Georgia and No. 21 Memphis. Chadwick said the competition his team faced will definitely help in their preparation for this weekend.
"Our objective was to prepare for this weekend," Chadwick said. The format consisted of three singles and three doubles matches against great competition, so we feel like we accomplished what we wanted to, and we are better prepared for this weekend."
Fans coming to Saturday's match will receive a free Ole Miss tennis t-shirt and enjoy popcorn between doubles and singles.
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