One win away. That's all they were.
But for the Ole Miss men's tennis team, it was a monster Bulldog that stood between them and a Southeastern Conference Tournament title.
Georgia was 24-0 when it played 20-4 Ole Miss Sunday in Tuscaloosa for the SEC tourney crown. Ole Miss won the doubles point, and Juan Pablo DiCesare won his match to give UM a 2-0 lead. Things were looking pretty good.
But Georgia isn't ranked No. 1 in the country and undefeated for nothing. They turned it on and got to some third sets against the Rebels in singles. As Billy Chadwick said, that wasn't a good sign.
"The longer you stay on the court with a great team like Georgia, the better their chances," the veteran UM head coach said. "The quicker you can take care of business, the better. We didn't need to go three sets in any of the matches, but that's what happened."
As the day went on, the Bulldogs pulled even, then pulled ahead and won 4-2.
"We made the best team in the country earn everything they got," said Chadwick, disappointed but still pleased with his team's efforts all weekend in beating Arkansas and Florida before playing Georgia. "I can tell you this. We're playing very well ourselves. And Georgia doesn't want to play us again."
That would be for a third time this season as the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss 4-3 in Oxford just a couple of weeks ago.
That next time would be in the NCAA Tournament, which isn't until mid-May. The announcement of the teams for the field and the host sites for Regionals isn't until Wed., May 3.
"We feel that with the wins over Arkansas and Florida that we have positioned ourselves to host another Regional," Chadwick said. "But until the announcement of the 16 host sites, you never know."
Until then, the Rebels will take care of other business.
"We'll take a couple of days off and then get the players back in the weight room and on their conditioning," he said. "They have some school work to catch up on before exams. They need some time to get their lives in order, and now is that time."
The fact that the SEC Tournament is so early in relation to the NCAA Tournament has to do with SEC policy, according to Chadwick. The SEC says no SEC Championships will be held during final exams.
"That will change a bit in a year or two as we have the SEC Tournament one weekend later," he said. "That should help the conference because we feel it hurts the league a bit since the wait between the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament is such a long time."
But for now Chadwick, along with assistant coach Jeff Clark and the Rebels, will wait it out to see if they host an always-exciting NCAA Regional in Oxford again. The dates would be the weekend of May 13-14. If the Rebels host, it will mark six years in a row and seven of the last eight for Ole Miss to do so.
"Certainly we hope we are able to host again," said Chadwick, whose team last year won the Oxford Regional and advanced to the NCAA Final Four, beating Georgia to get to the semifinals before falling to UCLA. "This team has given everything it has all season and did again in Tuscaloosa. We won the doubles point all three matches at the SEC Tournament, which was a positive. The team is very disappointed they didn't win the tournament, but all we can do now is congratulate Georgia and get ready for the NCAAs.
"Had Georgia just had any lapse during singles, especially after we won some first sets, then we win that thing. But they are a great team and played like it. So we move on from here."
Chadwick says men's tennis moves on from here
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