A Q&A With MSU Tennis Coach Per Nilsson

Mississippi State men's tennis coach Per Nilsson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about his team winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship and their upcoming home match with Ole Miss this Saturday beginning at 1 pm.

With the first-ever Southeastern Conference Western Division title in MSU history, what does that tell you about where your program is?
"It was one of our goals but our goals are even higher. But it's a step in the right direction. And we are happy to have won it."

This is your fourth year at MSU. Are you about where you expected to be at this point in time with your program?
"We thought we were going to be here a little earlier. We thought we were going to be at this point last year. But realistically this amount of time is probably what it takes to turn something around. This is the year that you want to try to make a really big move. And I feel like we are doing it. And I think we aren't even close to being done."

While you are making a big move this year, what makes it even better is knowing that you aren't losing any of the guys that are in your lineup.
"Yeah, we don't have a senior playing in the lineup. We do have three seniors that are going to be honored on Saturday who have been great for us. But in our lineup we have three juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen. That is encouraging."

What are your thoughts about playing Ole Miss in the final match of the regular season?
"They look forward to playing us and we look forward to playing them. It's obviously a huge match for both schools just because of the tradition of both schools and how good both teams have been. And now that we are getting closer to where we used to be it makes it even more fun."

What are the ramifications of this match other than wanting to defeat Ole Miss?
"We have a small chance of getting the three-seed (in the SEC tournament). We need help on that. But if we win, we get the fourth seed and it looks like we would play Florida on their court. That will be tough but we look forward to a re-match."

Your team is playing really well right now.
"We have said that we wanted to be the toughest team at the end of the year. We didn't want teams to want to play us. And I feel like we are getting close to that."

You obviously will be invited to the NCAA Regionals this year. It's very possible you could even host a regional. But to host an NCAA Regional you have to be one of the top 16 ranked teams in the nation. You are currently 21st in the nation. What are some things that need to happen for you to get at least a 16th ranking.
"The rankings will be decided after the SEC Tournament and other conference tournaments are finishing up. I think we need to win on Saturday (against Ole Miss). And we probably need to win at least one round in the (SEC) tournament next week. We would need to beat Florida or someone like them to have a chance to be top 16 and host."

What happens when you host a regional?
"In the NCAA tournament there are 64 teams invited. And the top 16 seeds get to host the first two rounds. It's a huge advantage to play your first two rounds on your home court. The winner of those regionals get to move on to the Sweet 16. If we are outside the 16, then we will have to go somewhere. Probably somewhere where they are 15th or 16th rank. It'll be more difficult due to the home court advantage that they would have."

Even if you don't get to host, you'll still be a two-seed, won't you?
"Yes, we would be a two-seed and we would play a three-seed. They would probably be ranked among the top 30, which means they will be a tough match. Then, you would run into the home team, which means if you are around 18 or 19 on the last ranking you will play a team that is 15 or 16. You'll have a good chance but it is still a bigger advantage to play at home."

Obviously, you want a big crowd this weekend against Ole Miss. What would it mean to your team to have a huge crowd?
"I spoke to Jeff (Jones) and Jay (Bradley) at Cowbells (Sports Grill), both of whom have been coming to our matches, and they told me they are now hooked. That's what I have always felt about tennis matches; once you come and see a college tennis match, you realize how much fun it is. It really helps the guys when there is a large crowd because of the support it gives them. I'm hoping for a big crowd because it is going to be a really fun match."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

Gene's Page Top Stories