OXFORD, Miss. - A new season begins this weekend with the start of Southeastern Conference play, as the Ole Miss men's tennis team welcomes Auburn and Alabama to the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
Friday, the Rebels will face No. 31 Auburn at 2 p.m. Fans will receive free Ole Miss Tennis Bucket hats and Nik Scholtz collector posters. Also, those fans who print the Facebook coupon and bring it to the match will receive a free general admission baseball ticket to Saturday's game.
With no clear cut favorite emerging during the first part of the season, the Southeastern Conference could come down to the wire. The Rebels hope to be one of those teams vying for the championship at the end of the season.
"It's a big opening weekend for us at home," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "It's already been proven this season, that any team can beat any other team in the SEC. It's going to be a tough weekend, because Alabama and Auburn both have quality programs. These are two teams that we match up well with, so we need to get off to a good start. We need to take advantage of playing at home."
The Rebels opened the outdoor season last weekend in Waco, Texas going 1-1 with a win over SMU and a close loss to No. 7 Baylor. Freshman Ricardo Jorge made his debut for the Rebels and went 2-0 in singles and doubles, including clinching the win over SMU.
"We had a good match against SMU," Chadwick said. "Baylor is a tough team, especially at their place. Some people are picking them as an outsider to win the NCAAs. We were extremely competitive with them."
Auburn comes into Friday's match with a 10-4 record. They wrapped up play in the Blue/Gray Championships last weekend with a 4-1 loss to arch-rival Alabama. The Tigers are led by senior Daniel Cochrane and junior Lukas Ollert. Cochrane owns an 8-1 dual match record.
On Sunday, the Rebels will host No. 37 Alabama at 1 p.m. The first 200 fans will receive a Spring Break tank top, and the Rebelettes will perform between doubles and singles.
Alabama enters the weekend at 6-5 overall. They went 2-1 at the Blue/Gray Championships this past weekend, including the 4-1 win over Auburn. The Crimson Tide is led by senior Daniil Proskura, who owns an 11-4 overall record, 3-2 at No. 1 singles.
Senior Johan Backstrom has been through the SEC wars three years now and believes the Rebels are capable of making some noise in the league.
"We have a great team spirit, and everybody's been fighting hard until the end in each match," he said. Even though we've faced some adversity, everybody has been showing that fighting spirit, and I think that is going to be to our advantage by the end of the season."
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