Rebels head to Baton Rouge for SEC tourney

Billy Chadwick's men's tennis team has only three losses this season. He and the players feel they should be undefeated.

They lost an early-season top-five matchup to Virginia 4-3 in the National Team Indoor Tournament in Chicago. They were upset 4-3 at Alabama during SEC play. They fell to top-ranked Georgia 5-2 but had their chances to win it.

But they won the rest of their matches along the way. Now it's a new day as the SEC Tournament begins in Baton Rouge, La.

At 11 a.m. Friday, the Rebels, seeded second, face the winner of Thursday's Auburn-Kentucky match. The Tigers are the 7th seed and the Wildcats the 10th seed.

"There are land mines down there," Chadwick said of the squads his team might face. "Kentucky is playing with a full lineup now, which they haven't had all season. And Auburn is very tough. Then if we win that one, we likely play the winner of Florida and Alabama. Of course, Alabama beat us in the regular season, and Florida is a team that we always have to battle against. And we'd like another crack at Georgia, because we played them close at their place."

The players are looking forward to continuing to build on the regular season as they won the program's sixth straight SEC West title. Ole Miss has lost only two matches to teams in the SEC West in six seasons.

"It will be fun," said Jonas Berg, a sophomore, but playing in his first SEC Tournament. "We're the second seed, and we want to do as well as we possibly can."

Junior Matthias Wellermann was on the team last year but sat out the season. He attended the SEC Tournament but is playing in his first one this time.

Wellermann has been hampered by a back problem much of this season. He feels if he can gut it out and play hard for three days (if needed), then he can get some rest for his back before the NCAA Tournament, which begins the weekend of May 11-13.

"I probably won't play both singles and doubles every day (at the SEC Tournament)," Wellerman said. "I'll do what I can, and then I'll get those three weeks to get better. But this tournament is exciting with every team there and a lot of people watching. It's a great event."

Junior Jakob Klaeson said the players view this as a big wrapup of the SEC season since they have three weeks off before NCAA Tournament play begins.

"We've played all the teams and we know all the players who will be there," Klaeson said. "We know we won the SEC West and finished second overall. Now we can really do something in the tournament and top off our season even more. It's so exciting to play in these tournaments."

"We've put the regular season behind us, and now it's time to get some revenge on Alabama and Georgia," said junior Robbye Poole. "I'm looking forward to playing those two teams and all the teams. We think we can beat any team we face. But we saw against Alabama that if we're not at the top of our game, we can lose. It was a wakeup call. But we're going down there to win this thing."

Four of the Rebels made the All-SEC team announced Wednesday. Junior Erling Tveit and junior Robbye Poole were selected first-team members, while freshman Kalle Norberg and sophomore Jonas Berg were named second-teamers.

"To be named All-SEC in this league is outstanding," Chadwick said. "There are so many great players. Erling has been an excellent asset at the top of the lineup, leading us in both singles and doubles. Robbye is one of the most improved players in the country and has been rock-solid for us all year. Jonas and Kalle are two of the top newcomers in the country. They made an immediate impact and have played a huge role in our success this season."

Chadwick said the Rebels are playing well at this point and he hopes that continues.

"We're as ready as we can be," he said. "Wellermann is struggling with his back. It's just a day to day thing. He'll have to play hurt, and it comes and goes. He just needs some time off. Everybody else is in good shape. It's SEC Tournament time, so it's exciting. We're pushing it hard, and we want to finish this thing strong."

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