Even though they'd been there before, losing the doubles point Friday afternoon seemed to put the fourth-ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team in a bigtime hole. Maybe it was the way they lost it that hurt most, because winning a match after losing the doubles point is nothing new for the program.
After the Rebels picked up a win at No. 3 doubles and lost at No. 1 doubles, the doubles point came down to No. 2 - Erling Tveit and Fredrik Aarum. Leading 7-3, that duo lost its last six points to drop the match and hand visiting South Carolina the doubles point.
Coach Billy Chadwick said he was no prouder of any Rebels on this day, however, than both Tveit and Aarum - because, he said, of how they responded in singles.
"Freddie and Erling came back and won both their singles matches in straight sets," he said. "That speaks volumes about their ability to overcome adversity. I was very proud of what they were able to do in singles."
Tveit and Aarum's impressive straight set singles victories gave the Rebels a 2-1 lead. Tveit downed USC's Jaime Cuellar 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles to even the match and improve to 8-1 in the SEC. He is now 11-1 at No. 3 singles. Aarum gave Ole Miss the lead for good with his 6-2, 6-3 win over Gamecock Ben Atkinson at No. 6 singles.
Senior Catalin Gard made it 3-1 after finishing off Tom Eklund 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. He improved to 7-2 in the SEC and 16-3 overall at No. 1 singles. Gard will play his final regular season home match at Ole Miss on Sunday.
Sophomore Eric Claesson snapped a three-match losing streak by defeating USC's Pedro Rodrigues 6-4, 6-3 on court two to clinch the match for the Rebels.
Ole Miss won the remaining two courts in third sets. Jakob Klaeson came back to beat Dimitry Babenko 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 at the No. 5 spot, and Juan Pablo Di Cesare rallied to defeat Geraldo Knorr 5-7, 6-2, 1-0(7).
UM improved to 18-2 overall and 8-1 in the SEC as they get ready to host No. 7 Florida Sunday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day. South Carolina fell to 17-7 overall and 5-4 in the SEC. With their win over State, Florida moved to 9-0 in the SEC, so Sunday's match could decide the overall SEC Championship. The Rebels have now won 24 straight regular season home matches dating back to April 6, 2003.
"Now Sunday is set up as we had hoped," Chadwick said. "We had to get through today against a good South Carolina team. Now we look to Sunday and concentrate on Florida. We beat them indoors earlier, but now this is a brand new match. It should be an exciting day."
The Rebels posted a 4-1 win over the Gators to advance to the semifinals at the National Team Indoor in Chicago back in February.
Men's tennis loses doubles but beats USC
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