Rebs, Lady Rebs in NCAA tennis tourney field

The Ole Miss men get the third national seed while the women make the tourney field for the first time since 2002.

It was almost anticlimatic Wednesday afternoon when both Ole Miss tennis teams were announced for the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

The call came via EPSNews, and basically the only fate unknown was the seed for the men's team.

When all was said and done, the Rebels of Coach Billy Chadwick were awarded as the No. 3 seed nationally and will host a Regional May 14-15.

The Lady Rebels, almost a cinch to get in, did so and will play in the Coral Gables, Fla., Regional May 13-14 against California.

Ole Miss (13-9), back in the NCAA Championships for the first time since the 2002 season, will face California (Pac-10 Conference) in the first round. The other half of the regional includes the host, Miami, (ACC) facing Florida Atlantic of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The winner of the regional will advance to Athens, Ga., for the "Sweet Sixteen" May 20-23.

The Lady Rebels are led by Chloe Carlotti, who is making her third trip to the NCAA Team Championships. She went with the Fresno State team in 2002 and 2003, before transferring to Ole Miss. Carlotti, ranked No. 38 in singles owns a 15-7 record at No. 1 singles and teams with junior Virginia Tomatis for a 17-5 record at No. 1 doubles and a No. 17 ranking.

"It's great for everybody that we are in the field," Carlotti said, who faced California during her days at Fresno. "And I'm very excited since I'm a senior. I know Cal has good players and they are always good in doubles. Our name came up quickly on the (selection) show, and so we didn't have to wait long to find out."

The past two seasons Ole Miss has just missed out on the tourney. Not this time, though.

"This allows us to continue to reach our goals," said Lady Rebel Coach Mark Beyers. "We wanted to win the SEC West and we did. We wanted to get into the NCAA Tournament and now we have. We want to finish the season in the top 25. And we want to make it to Athens for the Sweet 16. We can still do all those things."

Ole Miss women's tennis is making its 11th overall appearance in the NCAA Championships. The Lady Rebels have reached the "Sweet Sixteen" seven times.

The SEC led all conferences with 10 teams making the field of 64. Next was the Atlantic Coast Conference with eight, followed by the Pac-10 with seven and the Big Ten with five.

On the men's side, the Rebels will face Jacksonville State in the first round Saturday May 14 at 2 p.m. in Oxford. Middle Tennessee and Auburn will start the day at 11 a.m. The final will be played Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner advancing to the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen" in College Station, Texas, May 21-24.

The No. 3 seed marks the highest seed for the Rebels since the 1997 season when they went in as the No. 2 seed.

Chadwick said getting the No. 3 seed is exciting.

"It's a real tribute to this team to be able to go into this tournament seeded third," he said. "It should give the guys the right direction for just how close they are for really doing something big this year. It should really motivate them to work as hard as they can to prepare for this tournament."

The Rebel players are eager to host.

"The fact that we are the No. 3 seed is very good for us," freshman Bram ten Berge said. "We really expected to be hosting, and now we know we are. We are looking forward to our preparation for the NCAA Tournament. We feel like we can go a long way."

"These are all quality teams," Chadwick said of the Oxford field. "We played Middle Tennessee here earlier in the season and it was a tough match. Of course Auburn is always strong, and when we beat them at their place earlier in the year it went down to the wire. I don't know much about Jacksonville State yet, but I am about to find out what I can. This will be a very competitive regional."

Ole Miss (21-3) is making its 12th consecutive NCAA appearance and 14th overall. It also marks the sixth time in seven years for the Rebels to host a regional. The Rebels have advanced to the "Sweet Sixteen" nine times.

The Rebels' winning the SEC Championship for the second straight year was a significant accomplishment considering the SEC led all conferences with 10 schools earning bids to the NCAA Tournament. Six of the SEC's 10 teams were announced as host sites. Ole Miss will be joined as a host site by Florida, Georgia, LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ole Miss is led by senior All-American Catalin Gard, who is ranked No. 4 in the nation with a 20-3 record at No. 1 singles. Freshman Erling Tveit, ranked No. 110 in the country, finished his first regular season with the Rebels at 17-2 in dual matches, 9-2 in the SEC at No. 3 singles. He and Rebel senior Karim Alayli joined Gard on the All-SEC team.

Tickets for the regional can be purchased by calling (662)-915-7167 or toll-free 1-888-732-8587. Single day tickets are $7 and a weekend pass is $10. Students and faculty and staff tickets are $3 for a single day or $5 for a weekend pass.

*** Kim Ling of UM athletics media relations contributed to this story.

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