OXFORD, Miss. - Men's basketball isn't the only Ole Miss team facing arch-rival Mississippi State this week. The No. 12 nationally ranked Rebel netters will battle the 10th-ranked Bulldogs in the 16th annual River Hills Mississippi Cup in Jackson Thursday.
The two rivals will square off for the first time this year at 5 p.m. at the River Hills Tennis Club. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased by calling (601) 987-4438.
In 15 previous cups, the Rebels have won 12 of them. After MSU won the first two, Ole Miss won 10 straight in the annual event, before the Bulldogs rallied to win 4-2 last year. Both teams come in undefeated after having clinched spots in the ITA National Team Indoor two weeks ago.
Head coach Billy Chadwick says the team is looking forward to its first top ranked match-up of the season and knows it will be a tough battle.
"State has a really good team this year, so we're looking for a great match. We're expecting a tremendous crowd down at River Hills. We feel like it's going to be one of those matches that will go down to the end, and hopefully the Rebs will come out on top this time."
The Rebels, picked to win the overall SEC Championship this year, downed Columbia and NC State in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to begin the year 2-0. They are led by All-Americans Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen, who come into Thursday's match a combined 6-0 in singles and doubles at the top two spots. Lutjen is ranked No. 5 in the nation and Scholtz No. 33. Both will be facing familiar opponents.
Scholtz will be going against 25th-ranked Romain Bogaerts, one of three freshmen for the Bulldogs. The two met twice in the fall.
"I beat him outdoors (in winning ITA Southern Regional Championship) and he beat me indoors (ITA National Indoor)," Scholtz said. "I didn't really play my best when I faced him indoors, but it was still a pretty close match. I am excited to play him again. You have to look forward to these kinds of matches and challenges."
Last year's match lasted nearly six hours before MSU finally won it. The Rebels claimed the doubles point, but State took two of the top three singles and then won a three-setter at No. 5 to clinch. Four of the six singles matches went three sets.
"We didn't like how it felt after losing last year," Chadwick said. "The guys have a lot of respect for State, and for us to come out on top, we'll need to be at our best."
To keep up with the match, follow along in the live blog and on Twitter, @OleMissMTennis.
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