UM-MSU tennis teams meet in Jackson tonight

Ole Miss' Bram ten Berge knows the importance of today's match against Mississippi State in the 11th annual River Hills Mississippi Cup in Jackson.

For starters there are the streaks. Ole Miss has won eight Cups in a row in this series and 19 straight overall against MSU in men's tennis. And while those are key stats, ten Berge said there is much more to this match than that.

"The stakes are high and it makes everyone sharp when you play a good team like Mississippi State," said ten Berge, who will join his teammates on the indoor court at 5 p.m. today with doubles play first followed by singles. "It's always good to play quality matches early in the season to continue to prepare you."

The 5th-ranked Rebels have certainly done that so far. Among the matches they've already played are a home loss to 3rd-ranked Ohio State and two wins in Tulsa last weekend against 19th-ranked Oklahoma State and 23rd-ranked Tulsa, the site of this year's NCAA Championships.

"I hear the atmosphere is nice, and that we usually have a lot more fans than they do," said Matthias Wellermann of the Jackson event - Wellermann has been on the team for two previous years but hasn't participated in this event for the Rebels. "It's an important match for us, and we want to get a win to follow up on the two good wins we had last weekend."

The Rebels may not be at full strength today. No. 1 player Erling Tveit pulled a stomach muscle last weekend and, while improving, may not be available to play against the Bulldogs.

"It will be a match-time decision," Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick said.

He also said the UM-MSU match in Jackson is always one his program looks forward to.

"It's always a special event," he said. "We enjoy playing in Jackson and giving fans in that area a chance to enjoy college tennis. We've got a real challenge again this year. Mississippi State is a much improved team."

Despite the absence of Tveit in their last match, the Rebels were able to beat Tulsa, 6-1 with Wellermann stepping up to play No. 1 singles. Wellermann, in his first ever college match at No. 1, defeated one of the nation's top players, Arnau Brugues, who has been ranked as high as No. 3 this year.

Mississippi State downed UAB 4-1 in its season opener last Sunday. Led by first-year head coach and former letterman Per Nilsson, the Bulldogs return six players from last season. State is led by a pair of seniors in Philippe Frayssinoux and Ivan Bjelica.

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