OXFORD, Miss. - After a solid shutout win against Jackson State in the season opener, the competition heats up for the Ole Miss women's tennis team, as they travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend for the ITA Kick-Off. The Rebels will face Oklahoma in the first round Saturday at 2 p.m.
"It will be a huge match against Oklahoma, they have three seniors in their lineup," head coach Mark Beyers said. "It's going to be a tough assignment. I am looking forward to that match to get to know our team better and see where we are as far as competing against other NCAA quality teams. If we can get past Oklahoma, then we get a shot at the winner of Alabama/William & Mary to see if we can get back to Charlottesville (VA)."
The Sooners opened their season last Sunday with a 7-0 win against North Texas. They are led by senior Hermon Brhane at the No. 1 spot. Currently ranked No. 106 in the nation in singles, Bhrane was named to the All-Big 12 singles and doubles team in 2013.
The Rebels made their 16th NCAA appearance in 2013, but ended up on the wrong side of several close matches. Coach Beyers talked about the importance of strong doubles play for this weekend and beyond, in setting the tone for the season.
"The doubles point is always big. If you can go into that locker room up 1-0 that's a big advantage as opposed to being down 1-0," he said. "Compared to last year, we've got three really good doubles teams. We've upgraded there, and (freshman) Zalina (Khairudinova) is one of the reasons for that. But the other girls have improved a lot in doubles, so I feel like we are in a position to win more doubles points this year. We lost a lot of close matches last year where it would have made a difference, so hopefully that will make some of those 4-3 matches go our way this year."
With an experienced singles lineup, the Rebels are hoping improved doubles play can be the difference, starting with this weekend, where the winner of both matches advances to the National Team Indoor Feb. 7-10 in Charlottesville, Va. The Rebels are looking for their second appearance in three years.
Follow the Rebels in action at the ITA Kick-Off by going to OleMissSports.com and clicking on the link to live scoring in the calendar.
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