OXFORD, Miss. – Before they left on their first SEC road trip of the year, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team got a pep talk from athletics director Ross Bjork, who told them that with every downfall comes new opportunity, the key is being able to see it. The first opportunity awaiting the Rebels is No. 13 Tennessee.
The Vols and Rebels will square off at the Barksdale Tennis Stadium Friday at 1 p.m. CT. Following that match, the Rebels will travel to Athens, Ga., to face No. 16 Georgia Sunday at Noon CT.
Both matches present Ole Miss with a chance to get back into the conference race and into the national spotlight again, after a tough opening weekend with close losses at home to Auburn and Alabama.
“These are two of the best teams in the conference, and playing them on the road is going to be a tough assignment,” said head coach Billy Chadwick of Tennessee and Georgia. “We’ve been getting better with every match, and the guys are ready to show that in the results.”
The Rebels have had a difficult time winning the doubles point this year, so Coach Chadwick switched things up in hopes of jumpstarting the team. The lefty duo of William Kallberg and Stefan Lindmark will go back to playing together at No. 1. Two-time All-American Nik Scholtz will remain with freshman Ricardo Jorge, as the two are 2-1 at No. 2 doubles. The No. 3 team will feature Johan Backstrom with Joe Rogers.
Just how important has the point been for the Rebels over the years? Since the 2002 season, the Rebels are 191-18 when they claim the point. When the Rebels drop the point, they are 39-60.
Tennessee comes into the weekend with an 11-4 overall record, 0-1 in the SEC. They are coming off a 4-1 win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday. In their first SEC match, the Vols lost to Georgia 4-0. Tennessee is led by Hunter Reese, who ranks No. 21 in the nation in singles, and Mikelis Libietis, who comes in at No. 32. The duo form the No. 2 doubles team in the nation.
Ole Miss has won three in a row against Tennessee, including the last time the two teams faced off in Knoxville, a 5-2 victory for the Rebels.
Georgia enters the weekend with a 5-5 overall record, 1-0 in the SEC. The Bulldogs are led by Austin Smith, who is ranked No. 16 in singles. They also boast the No. 14 ranked team at No. 1 doubles in Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters.
The Rebels split the two meetings last year, with the Bulldogs winning at the National Team Indoor, and the Rebels rallying for a 4-3 victory in Oxford.
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