More tennis in Oxford as Rebels host again

Being one of the top tennis programs in the country is anything but routine. But getting selected to host has almost become just that for Billy Chadwick's men.

Ole Miss found out today it will again host an NCAA Regional. Ole Miss will play Jacksonville State at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 11. In an earlier match that day, Minnesota will play South Alabama at 1 p.m.

The championship of the Oxford Regional is on Saturday, May 12, at 1 p.m.

"We're very excited to be hosting again," said Chadwick, whose Rebels are the No. 7 national seed. "The committee seemed to stay true to the rankings."

The Rebels, 22-4 on the season, are currently ranked No. 7 nationally in the poll. Chadwick said the 7th spot is about where he thought his team would be when the bids came out. For the first time in years no Southeastern Conference team is coming to the Oxford Regional.

"We feel we got a break with no SEC teams coming in," Chadwick said. "All the SEC teams are tough, and we all know each other so well. I thank the NCAA for not sending one here, but we have our work cut out for us anyway."

The Oxford Regional featured Auburn from the SEC last year and also the year before. The Tigers came to Oxford for NCAA play in 2003 as well.

In 2004 Vanderbilt, which won the Oxford Regional that year, went on to finish second in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama played in the Oxford Regional in 2002.

Jacksonville State, the fourth seed here this year at 16-6 on the season, was in the Oxford Regional in 2005.

South Alabama was in the first-ever Oxford Regional in 1999, which is the first year the NCAA went to host sites at top 16 teams.

Ole Miss has hosted a men's tennis regional every year since except 2000 when the Rebs were sent to Virginia Tech. They lost to Virginia Commonwealth in that event.

The only time the Rebels lost the Oxford Regional other than 2004 when Vandy won it was in 2001 when Southern Cal won it.

This year South Alabama is the second seed in the Oxford Regional at 21-4, while Minnesota is the third seed at 15-9.

The Rebels say playing at home is a tremendous advantage.

"It's huge to play at home," said senior Eric Claesson. "That's especially so for me since it will be my last two matches at home, if we win the first one, of course. We are pleased to be playing in front of our fans again."

Junior Erling Tveit agreed.

"It's always good to play at home," he said. "Our fans really help us, and we look forward to playing in front of them again. Every team is good, so you want the advantage of playing at home."

Chadwick said the Rebels could have been seeded higher had they beaten one of the teams they lost to this season. The losses were to top-seed and No. 1-ranked Georgia in the regular season and again in the SEC Tournament finals; No. 4-seed Virginia in the National Team Indoor in Chicago early in the semester; and an upset at the hands of Alabama in Tuscaloosa during the regular season.

"If we beat Alabama, we move up one or two spots," Chadwick speculated. "If we beat Georgia or Virginia, we are likely a top 4 seed."

Still they feel good about their position and the chance of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in Athens, Ga., beginning on Thursday, May 17.

"There are so many good teams," Chadwick said. "Our guys will be really focused and ready to play. They've done a good job during this break of handling things as far as practice and conditioning. This team feels it can do some big things."

Tickets for the Oxford Regional are $7 each day, or $10 for a two-day pass. Student tickets are $5 each day or $10 for two days.

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