Tennis teams ready for SEC tournaments

With the regular season completed, Mark Beyers and Billy Chadwick now send their teams into Southeastern Conference Tournament action. Both feel their troops are playing their best tennis of the season.

"The girls were able to overcome a lot of close losses early and break through lately," said Beyers, whose Lady Rebel team won three of its last four matches. "It all started with a win over Kentucky at home."

Ironically it is that same Lady Wildcats team Ole Miss will face Thursday at 10 a.m. at Auburn. After defeating UK in Oxford, the Lady Rebs beat Arkansas, lost to LSU, and beat Mississippi State – the 19th straight win for UM over the Lady Bulldogs. All three of those matches were on the road.

"Everybody has lifted their play," said Beyers, whose team will play Georgia in round two if it gets past Kentucky. "All of our matches were total team efforts, and we won the doubles point in all three of those wins. So we feel good about things heading into the conference tournament."

Ole Miss last won the SEC Women's Tennis Tournament in 1999.

Chadwick's squad won the SEC West title for the seventh straight season and will be looking for its first SEC Men's Tennis Tournament crown since 1997.

"I feel we're peaking at the right time," said Chadwick, whose Rebels are ranked seventh nationally and are seeded second in this event behind SEC overall champ Georgia. "With a strong run in this tournament, we feel we may be able to be a Top Four national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament."

Of course, the first goal is to win this event, which is being held in Fayetteville, Ark. But the Rebels, who on Friday at 10:30 a.m. will play the winner of the Auburn-Kentucky first-day match, always have the NCAA Tournament on their minds. Ole Miss defeated Auburn 6-1 and Kentucky 5-2 during the regular season.

The Rebels clinched the No. 2 seed with a 4-3 win over Mississippi State last Saturday, the 21st consecutive win for Ole Miss over State in men's tennis.

This season also marks the 15th consecutive year for Ole Miss to finish among the top four men's tennis teams in the SEC during the regular season.

"Some years our 9-2 conference record would have won the SEC, but not this year," said Chadwick, who has four SEC overall crowns to his credit. "It's still actually been a great year, and the conference tournament is always a great event."

Georgia is the No. 1 seed, while Tennessee is third and Florida fourth. Tennessee ended Georgia's 40-match SEC win streak last Saturday with a 4-3 win in Knoxville. The Rebels' two losses this season were at Georgia and at home to Florida.

Chadwick says his team has progressed all season, especially since the Rebels have been able to play outside more. Bad weather hindered them throughout much of the early part of the season.

"We played great indoors all year, and we just haven't had as many looks outside," he said. "We're just now playing up to our potential outside, and if we could go back and play those matches against Georgia and Florida that were earlier in the season, things might be different.

"But we move on from here and hope to play well and win the SEC Tournament," Chadwick continued. "Then it will be time to focus on the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully we'll be hosting again."

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