OXFORD, Miss. – After a disappointing end to the team season, Ole Miss men’s tennis All-Americans Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen immediately turned their focus to trying to win an individual NCAA Championship. That quest begins Wednesday at the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign, Ill.
“It was a good season overall. We’ll likely finish top 10 in the nation, and we got the SEC West title, but our season ended short of where we wanted it to in the NCAA Championships,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “I feel like it served as motivation for us, especially for Nik and Jonas. They’ve been working hard, and we’re looking forward to a great tournament this week.”
Play begins Wednesday with first round singles. Scholtz will face Clifford Marsland (Tulsa) at 11:30 a.m. Lutjen takes on Ebsen Hess-Olesen of North Carolina at 8 a.m. In doubles, the duo will meet the Indiana team of Isade Juneau and Sam Monette in the first round Thursday.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Lutjen, who comes into the NCAAs ranked No. 20 in the nation singles and No. 3 in doubles. “We’ve been practicing well. It’s a little bit of an advantage to come in fresh. I definitely think we have an advantage if we can get through the first round. We’re looking forward to it and trying to have fun.”
“It’s like yin and yang,” said Scholtz on the team season ending sooner than expected. “With everything bad there is something good, and the other way around. We were able to rest up a little bit and practice, but it’s still disappointing. We both would have given this up for the team to be there instead, but it didn’t work out. We’re just going to make the most of what we can still accomplish.”
Scholtz is seeded 9-16 in singles and No. 3 in doubles with Lutjen. The South African reached the Elite Eight in singles last year in his first appearance as a freshman. Scholtz made it four straight years for the Rebels to have a player reach at least the quarterfinals.
“I am not really going to focus too much on past results, I am just going to pretend like this is my first NCAAs,” Scholtz said. “Obviously I have experience, but I don’t want to think too much about the past. I am just going to play to the best of my abilities, and I know if I play well, I can make a run. There are a lot of good of players in the field, and we are looking forward to it.”
On his and Lutjen’s chances in the doubles, he said “We definitely want to do better than last year, we want to win at least a couple of matches and see what happens after that. If we play well, we can make a big run. We have high hopes.”
Both Scholtz and Lutjen have been ranked inside the top 20 in singles and top 10 in doubles all season. Associate head coach Toby Hansson is looking forward to watching the All-SEC first team honorees this week.
“Both Nik and Jonas have been preparing well this past week, and they’re excited about playing,” he said. “I feel like we have two very good players who can both go far in the tournament in singles and doubles. If they can get past the first round and get themselves into the tournament, they’re both very dangerous.”
Fans can follow all the singles and doubles action through live scoring and video by going to OleMissSports.com and clicking on the tournament central link in the calendar.
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