OXFORD, Miss. – With the Australian Open beginning this week that means one thing: tennis is back. The 2013 season begins for the Ole Miss women’s tennis team this weekend at the Michigan Invitational.
The Rebels return five players from last year’s team that finished among the top 25 for the third time in four years, but youth will be served in 2013. The roster features two juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. They might be young, but there is no shortage of talent on the roster, which has head coach Mark Beyers looking forward to the season.
“We are very excited to get started,” said Beyers, now in his 12th year. “The first week of practice was fantastic. It looked like the girls stayed very busy over the break. We are looking forward to keeping score against some great opposition. It will give us an idea of where we are. We lost three seniors who contributed a lot to our program. We’ve got a very young team, and hopefully we can find out how they respond to that type of competition. This weekend will help us prepare for our first dual match.”
The Michigan Invitational will give the Rebels that opportunity as the tournament features three teams in the top 20, including the Wolverines at No. 16, the Rebels at No. 18 and Georgia Tech at No. 20. South Florida is ranked No. 43.
Each team will play three rounds of doubles and three rounds of singles. The Rebels will start the tournament playing singles against Michigan Friday at 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s action will include singles versus Georgia Tech followed by doubles against South Florida. Play concludes Sunday with singles versus USF and doubles with Michigan and Georgia Tech.
REBEL RAMBLINGS •The Rebels opened the spring at No. 18 in the first ITA team rankings. This marks the fourth year in a row for the team to begin the season in the top 25.
•Five players return from the 2012 season, including All-SEC honorees Caroline Rohde-Moe (Junior), Erin Stephens and Julia Jones (sophomores). Rohde-Moe is ranked No. 30 in the latest singles rankings. She posted an 11-6 record in the fall.
• Several newcomers highlight a young team, including freshman Marija Milutinovic, who was here in the fall and Mai El Kamash, who just arrived last week. Also making her debut for the Rebels this weekend is Santa Shumilina, who was here last year, but had to sit out.
•The Rebels start dual-match play Jan. 22 at William & Mary before returning home to host the ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 27-28. Ole Miss plays Yale Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. and then faces Illinois/Vanderbilt Monday, Jan. 28 at TBA.
• There will be a new scoring system in doubles this season that will be in place until the ITA National Indoor Championships Feb. 8-11. Doubles matches in progress when the point is clinched will be abandoned, as long as both coaches agree to that prior to the start of the match. There will also be “no ad scoring,” meaning that when the game hits 40-40, the next point will win the game. Finally, a tiebreaker will take place if both teams are tied at 7-7.
On a projected lineup “Coach (Jason) Ontog and I have talked about it, and we have some idea. This weekend will determine a lot of what we’re going to do for the match against William & Mary and then obviously for the ITA Kickoff Weekend.”
On the goals for the season “Some of the goals we have stay the same every year like winning the SEC West. With the addition of Texas A&M, who is one of the top teams, it will be a little tougher, but that is still our goal. Making the (NCAA) Sweet Sixteen is another one of our main goals. I know we’re very young, but we’re also very talented. We might have some growing pains early in the season, but I truly believe that we’re a team that could be close to where we were last year or better. I am looking forward to seeing them play this weekend, to get a better idea of where we are.”
On leadership from Caroline Rohde-Moe “She is in her third year now, and she really stepped up this fall and became that clear cut No. 1 player for us. We will definitely rely on her leadership. Even some of the sophomores (Erin and Julia) have a year under their belt, so the expectations for them change a little. Last year, they could look to those three great seniors to show them the way. Now with a lot more youth, it will be a different dynamic, and will have to be more of a team effort. Hopefully some of these players can move up a spot from where they played last year and win, or maybe it’s a case where some of the freshmen break into the lineup and do well.”
On Santa Shumilina “She’s been a year. It was a tough situation, because she was on the team, but had to sit out a year. She didn’t get to travel and didn’t quite get the same experiences as some of these other players, but I am looking forward to watching her play. She’s a very good player, and she’ll definitely contribute here.”
On Mai El Kamash “Mai just came here, and in the short time that she’s been here, she’s done a great job of fitting in. She’s already become part of the team, and the other girls have done a great job of showing her the ropes. She had a great week of practice and I am really excited about her. Rebel fans will enjoy watching her play.”
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