May 28, 2014
By Austin Miller,
OXFORD, Miss. -- Nik Scholtz extended the career of legendary coach Billy Chadwick at the NCAA Championships, as the junior All-American reached the Round of 16 for the second time in his career before dropping a close match to UCLA freshman Mackenzie McDonald.
Scholtz finished the season with a 27-7 overall record, highlighted by becoming the fourth Rebel to be named SEC Player of the Year and the first to earn SEC Freshman and Player of the Year honors during his career. His record included a pair of early season wins over Pepperdine's Alex Sarkissian, the runner-up in the NCAA Singles Championship, and an impressive 15-1 mark at No. 1 singles, including 8-1 in the SEC. Scholtz led the Rebels to their 21st consecutive NCAA appearance, and the team defeated Northwestern 4-1 to advance to the second round.
"I achieved a lot of the goals that I wanted to," said Scholtz of his season. "I grew a lot as a player. I got better. I'm still healthy. A lot of people would be satisfied with a Sweet 16, but I really and truly felt this was a year where I could have gone really deep in the [NCAA] Tournament. You can't let one tournament define your whole season. All in all, I'm pretty happy with how it went. It would have been nice to have a better run at the end of the year, but it is what it is. You have to put it behind you, learn and grow from it."
With the collegiate season behind him, Scholtz plans to follow in the footsteps of 2012 NCAA Champion Steve Johnson of Southern California. Johnson was in the same position of having only a few hours to graduate, and he elected to play ITF Futures and Challengers in the summer and fall before returning to Southern Cal for his senior season.
Scholtz is playing in the South Africa F2 Futures that begins Monday. He will play singles and team up with former Rebel and fellow South African Tucker Vorster, in doubles.
From there, Scholtz plans to take some time off, go home to his native Caledon, South Africa, see his family and regroup and then start practicing in preparation for the next tournaments. The focus, Scholtz said, is putting it all together when it really matters, when you're in those pressure-packed moments, and trying to win as many matches as he can.
"It's about being in the right place at the right time and getting a couple of breaks and then you're there," Scholtz said. "The biggest thing you can do is be persistent and play hard every time you step on the court. The ranking will take care of itself. When you're thinking too much about that, it's not going to work out.
"I have learned that all you can do is focus on playing your best tennis, giving it all you have and preparing as hard as you can. At the end of the day, that's all you can do, and the rest will happen if it's meant to happen."
As for Scholtz's future beyond this summer and fall, he will have a big decision to make on whether to return to Ole Miss for his senior season or turn pro. Scholtz, who redshirted his freshman season, is just six hours short of graduation.
"I could truly stay here forever," Scholtz said. "I love this place and I love playing for Ole Miss. The support I'm getting here is truly amazing and I'm really thankful for that. There comes a time when you have to start thinking about the bigger picture, and I am not getting any younger. What will influence my decision the most are my results and my health."
With Scholtz, the Rebels would return six of their top seven players from this year's team, and will be bolstered by one of the nation's top recruiting classes in Gustav Hansson of Sweden, Zvonimir Babic of Croatia and Mazen Osama of Egypt.
"Ole Miss is going to have a great tennis team, and that definitely weighs into my decision. It would be great to be part of winning a championship for Ole Miss and our fans," Scholtz closed.