OXFORD, Miss. - With an experienced group of seven returnees back from last year, the Ole Miss women's tennis team looks forward to the 2013-14 season. The Rebels will open the fall campaign this weekend in Cary, N.C., at the Duke Fab Four Invitational.
The tournament starts Friday with two rounds of doubles followed by the first round of singles. Saturday features the final round of doubles followed by a second and third round of singles. Play wraps up Sunday with the singles final.
Competing for the Rebels are juniors Julia Jones (McComb, Miss.), Erin Stephens (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.) and Iris Verboven (Waalre, Netherlands) and sophomore Mai El Kamash (Cairo, Egypt). They will face an elite field with players from all over the nation including Duke, Alabama, Oklahoma State, William & Mary, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Miami, Furman and Texas A&M. Of those teams, seven finished in the top 25 last year, including four in the top 10.
"It's a great place to start the year," head coach Mark Beyers said. "Some of the top teams will be there, so it's an excellent measuring stick for our players and an opportunity to pick up some ranked wins."
The team started official practice Monday, but the players had been working out in the weight room and individually prior to this week. Beyers likes what he's seen so far from his veteran team.
"The girls have worked hard, especially in the weight room, and we are looking forward to playing some of the top players in college tennis and seeing where we are. We have a great fall schedule which includes several top tournaments. It's an excellent opportunity for the girls to pick up some quality wins and try and move up in the rankings to position themselves for an NCAA bid later."
Coming off their fifth consecutive NCAA appearance, the Rebels will be led by senior Caroline Rohde-Moe (Bloomenholm, Norway), who began the year ranked No. 39 in the nation in singles.
Rohde-Moe and sophomore teammate Marija Milutinovic (Stockholm, Sweden) received a No. 24 doubles ranking. El Kamash is ranked No. 85 nationally in singles.
"We have a good mix of experience and youth," Beyers said. "Obviously it's great to have Caroline as a senior, but the three juniors (Stephens, Jones and Verboven) will also play a huge leadership role. Our young players, Mai and Marija gained plenty of experience last year, especially Mai playing high up in the lineup."
As Beyers noted, the fall portion of the schedule gives players an opportunity to improve their ranking and potential for an NCAA individual bid. It is also beneficial for the coaches to see where certain players might fit in the singles and doubles lineups for the spring dual match season.
"Having a good fall helps us from a confidence standpoint and for the team ranking in the spring. It also helps us figure out potential singles and doubles lineups for the dual matches."
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