OXFORD, Miss. – Music City has been quite good to the Rebels this year on the football field and on the tennis courts, and the Ole Miss men’s tennis team heads to Nashville, Tenn., for the upcoming SEC Tournament, hoping to create some more magic.
The Rebels are the No. 11 seed, and will face the No. 6 seed, Tennessee, Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Currey Tennis Center.
“We are really looking forward to the tournament,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “We are coming off a big weekend. Tennessee has won four straight matches, so it should be a great match.”
The Rebels went into last weekend needing a win over No. 10 Texas A&M to keep alive their postseason chances, and the team rose to the occasion, knocking off the Aggies 4-3. With the win, the Rebels moved up in the rankings (43), but they know that another solid win against No. 18 Tennessee would get them off the proverbial NCAA bubble.
“It moved us up in the rankings, and now we are in the ballpark for an NCAA bid,” said Chadwick who has guided his teams to 20 straight NCAA Championship appearances. “It put us in position where we are now playing on Thursday in the tournament instead of Wednesday. We are excited about playing Tennessee. They have a great team; we’ve beaten them once, so we need to use that to our advantage.”
Junior All-American Nik Scholtz, ranked No. 18 in the nation, has led the team all season long, holding down the No. 1 spot with a 13-1 record. He has won 15 of his last 16 matches dating back to mid-January. Scholtz has two wins against top-10 players and one against a top-15 player. Thursday, he’ll face another tough test with Tennessee’s Hunter Reese.
“Nik keeps getting it done, he is one of the premier players in the conference, Chadwick said. Reese will definitely present a challenge. He’s ranked No. 20 in the country and he’s having a great year. Nik had a little bump in the road up at South Carolina, but other than that, he’s been perfect.”
“I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well, except for the one match against South Carolina,” Scholtz said. My confidence is helping me a lot. Nothing can replace confidence. It’s not something you can buy or practice, it comes with winning.”
Scholtz also feels like the team is becoming more confident with each match, especially after last week’s big win against Texas A&M.
“We have improved so much. It was great to see Slick (Stefan Lindmark) win that match for us and get the victory. We’ve become more of a unit as the year has progressed. That’s important.”
Tennessee enters the SEC Tournament at 17-9 overall. They won four straight SEC matches to finish 6-6 in league play.
In the first meeting, Tennessee won the doubles point, but the Rebels picked up wins at Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6 singles for the 4-1 victory.
“It’s a new match,” Scholtz said. “We aren’t thinking too much about the last one, just focusing on what we have to do to win this one.”
The winner of this match will face the No. 3 seed, Kentucky Friday at 9 a.m.
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