Netters knock off LSU

It was an uphill battle for the No. 10 nationally ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team Friday, as LSU took the doubles point, but the Rebels came out swinging in singles on their way to a huge 4-3 win at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. Sunday, the Rebels will host Arkansas for "Senior Day."

With the win, the Rebels improved to 17-2 overall and 6-1 in the SEC, while LSU dropped to 12-4 and 4-3 in league play. Ole Miss now has a two-match lead over LSU and Alabama as they seek to win their sixth consecutive SEC Western Division title. In addition, the Rebels have now won six of the last seven meetings against LSU.

"We knew it would be a tight match," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "We were really disappointed in how we played in doubles. We didn't play well, and they did. It was impressive with our ability to take five of the first six sets. That was a big difference in the match. We were able to close four of them out for the win."

As Chadwick note, the Rebels rebounded to win the first sets on five of the six courts. First off the court, Jonas Berg, who has been a rock in the bottom half of the lineup, defeated LSU's Jan Zelezny 6-3, 6-2 to put the Rebels on the board. Berg remains undefeated on the season.

Competing in his first home singles contest since the Florida match, German standout Matthias Wellermann came off the court next, handing Tiger Colt Gaston a 6-3, 6-4 loss on court three to give Ole Miss a 2-1 lead. The Rebels would never trail again.

LSU tied it with Ken Skupski's win over junior Erling Tveit at No. 1. Skupski broke Tveit to start the match and went on to win the first set 6-4. He gained another break in the second set and held for 6-4 to give his team another point.

Senior Eric Claesson, playing his last home weekend at the tennis center, didn't disappoint the fans, downing LSU's Danny Bryan 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2, to give the Rebels a 3-2 lead.

"It was a good way to start the weekend," he said. "This was my best match so far this spring. I knew it was a big match, and we had a great crowd. I was pumped up from the beginning, and everything was going my way. I knew I had to win, and it feels good to get it."

The final two matches went three sets. On court five, freshman Kalle Norberg battled LSU sophomore James Cluskey to a third set. Norberg won the first easily, 6-1, and many figured it to be another quick match for the Swedish native, who has rarely been tested all season. But Cluskey came back to get the second 6-2. Norberg raced out to 5-2 in the third, before Cluskey won two straight games to force the Rebel to serve for the match again. This time, Norberg got it done to clinch the team victory and remain undefeated in singles. It was just his second match to lose a set.

"It was one of the toughest matches for me all year," Norberg said. "It was definitely a different experience, but a nice one. I started playing bad in the second set, and he served better. The weather was great, and we had a good crowd. For me, this was a big win, but also for the team to come back and win."

Once the match was clinched, Ole Miss' Robbye Poole retired in the third set of his match to LSU's Kevin Dausser on court four.

"Eric has been struggling lately since the match against Virginia (National Team Indoor) when he had chances to close it out," Chadwick added. It was great for him to get a good win. That will help his confidence. Kalle got pushed. It was hard to know how he would react in that situation. He competes hard, and he did an outstanding job."

The first 100 fans to Sunday's match will receive a free Coca-Cola bucket hat.

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