Men's tennis players ready to host again

The Ole Miss men's tennis team will once again host an NCAA Regional. Veteran players like Erling Tveit and Robbye Poole say they always look forward to playing before the home crowd.

"The Regionals are always a lot of fun," said Tveit, a senior and the Rebels' No. 1 player. "We've been fortunate to host all my four years. We always get a packed house. It's a big advantage to play the first two matches at home."

"It's great," said Poole, who transferred to Ole Miss from Clemson after his freshman season. "This is the third year that we've hosted since I've been here. It's a great opportunity to get to the Sweet Sixteen in Tulsa."

The Regional is May 10-11. Tveit said the Rebels appear to be peaking at the right time.

"During the SEC Tournament, I think we played our best tennis as a team," said Tveit, who clinched the SEC tourney crown with his match in the Sunday final against Florida. "We've been working really hard to get ready for the NCAA and to keep playing well."

The Rebels admitted they are a bit dismayed they aren't higher than a No. 5 national seed.

"We are a little disappointed," Poole said. "We thought we should be the third seed because of our wins in the top 10 and top 20. But you have to beat everybody in the (NCAA) tournament, so it doesn't matter if you are five or six. You still have to win."

"I was a little disappointed," Tveit said. "But it doesn't matter if you are four or five. We were hoping for a three, and if we had just won one of the matches we lost before, we would have been a three. Now we could face Georgia (in the quarterfinals). It's tough but it's possible."

The Rebels were off to somewhat of a slow start earlier this season with losses to No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Ohio State, No. 4 seed Georgia, and Florida. But they continued to stay the course and improve, and as their outside play came along, the Rebels indeed got better.

"We should have beaten Ohio State here, and then we played a really good match against Virginia in the semis of the (National Team) Indoors," Tveit said. "At the beginning of the season, we played a lot of matches indoors. It's hard when you finally get to play outside and you haven't been outside that much. I think that is why we struggled in the beginning of the SEC season. But since we've had more time outside, we are playing better."

Tveit said winning the SEC Tournament for the first time since 1997 has given the team the confidence edge it needed heading into the NCAA Tournament.

"We won the SEC tournament. It was perfect timing heading into the NCAAs," Tveit said. "I feel for sure this could be our year."

UM Coach Billy Chadwick said there is no feeling like being called "champions" of any tournament.

"When you get to walk away and you're holding the big trophy it's a special feeling," he said. "It is also the feeling that when you look around the field and can say ‘we are the last ones standing this particular week; we were the best team in this tournament, the best team in the conference', it gives you a lot of confidence."

Chadwick agrees with Tveit that the Rebels could win it all this time. But the magic formula remains the same year after year.

"It all comes down to getting hot at the right time, having the confidence to be able to win those close matches," he said. "I feel like we're one of probably six or seven teams going to the tournament that if we can get hot we can win this thing."

Based on their last performance at the SEC tourney, it appears they are indeed one of those teams with a shot to win it all.

Ole Miss tennis notes:

Bram ten Berge, who broke a bone in his foot in March in the Rebels' home match with Florida, is cleared to play and should be ready for the NCAA Tournament. Both he and Chadwick said he should be ready to play. The remainder of the team is healthy as well, according to Chadwick.

Match times are Ole Miss-Marist at 11 a.m. on Sat., May 10, followed by Vanderbilt-Indiana at 2 p.m. The Sunday, May 11, championship match is set for 12 noon.

The NCAA Championships, with the final 16 teams participating, will be held in Tulsa, Okla., May 17-20.

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