All over campus teams are getting ready for some important events this weekend. Track's headed to Auburn for the SEC Meet. Golf heads to Chattanooga and Tennis to Tulsa for NCAA tournaments. Baseball travels to Lexington for as big a baseball series as there's been around here in quite some time.
Getting everything ready to head out of town for the big events takes some doing. And teams have to be flexible, which they can be this time of year with no school going on.
It makes for a more relaxed atmosphere, and most of the players admit it's the best time of year since they don't have to worry about the books and can focus just on playing.
There are the usual last-minute preparations and unforeseen circumstances. Today there was a flat tire on campus as a golfer was stranded and a teammate had to go pick him up and get him to the course on time. (I felt his pain; tires and I have had our moments.).
When all of Ernest Ross' players got to the course, he and Jonathan Dismuke, as fine a golf assistant as there is in the country, let them practice some, especially putting and the short game, before loading. Just one more bit of preparation as they ready for their second straight NCAA Regional appearance.
This year they want to make it to Nationals. That will be played at Purdue. They feel they can get there, too.
So how do I know Dismuke is one of the nation's best assistant golf coaches? I've been around the program, listened to the players and to Ross, and listened to the players' parents. And to confirm it, I found out today he is one of the finalists for college golf's national assistant coach of the year award. That hasn't happened at Ole Miss before.
So then Dismuke headed to Collerville, Tenn., to follow Jesse Speirs, one of the Rebels' outstanding golfers, as he attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open. Then it was on to Chattanooga. They'll all meet up there, play a practice round at Council Fire on Wednesday, and the ninth-seeded Rebels hope to play their best golf yet and wind up as one of the 10 teams still standing at Regionals' end late on Saturday.
Billy Chadwick's group was doing much the same thing as they gathered midday at the Gillom Center to depart for Tulsa.
Chadwick, announced this week as the ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year for a second time, has been doing this for so long now, it's almost routine. But there are still the last-minute preps.
From signing team posters and pennants before loading the van, to checking and rechecking to make sure all the sports wear and racquets (pretty important equipment there, huh) are on board before the two vans head up to Memphis and across Arkansas for Oklahoma.
Their familiarity with the teams they will likely meet could work in their favor. They've beaten North Carolina, the team they face Friday morning, already this season.
Then after a day off, it's likely to be old SEC nemesis Georgia on Sunday – unless Pepperdine can knock off the Bulldogs.
Virginia and Ohio State probably will await the Rebels after that. Both have wins over Ole Miss this spring. The Rebel players say they know they can beat them all.
It is indeed a confident bunch of tennis Rebs who head West, a team that has been on a roll for two months, and a big-time one the past month.
When it gets to this time of year, you never know. All 16 teams are good. But this could be their year.
Joe Walker feels as good about his troops as they head to the SEC Championships as he's felt in a while. That's especially true on the women's side.
He's gotten some of the men back from some early-season injuries, so he believes they'll be competitive as well.
Led by the world's best long jumper, Brittney Reese of Gulfport, Walker says there could be some special moments for Ole Miss on the plains this weekend.
He also says, and I totally agree, that the track complex at Ole Miss continues to pay dividends for his program. The depth and talent now on the two track and field teams are a direct result.
It's not a very well kept secret that Ole Miss and Kentucky have some sort of rivalry going in baseball. For some reason, these two programs just aren't that fond of each other, or so I hear.
Both the Ole Miss and Kentucky baseball programs have been successful the past few seasons with Ole Miss clearly having the upper hand as far as wins and titles, Regionals and Super Regionals.
A date in Hoover is at stake this time around. UK's ballpark won't be a place for the faint-hearted beginning Thursday for three days.
Late on Saturday afternoon, both hope to be headed to Hoover next week. Right now, nothing is certain except that this is a biggie in the bluegrass. Whoever wins two is going to have reached at least one of their preseason goals.
The preparations are almost over for all these teams. Their focus is now on succeeding. At whatever level, in whatever situation, on whatever course or field.
It's another important sports weekend for Ole Miss as they head to different locales throughout the region. Stay tuned. It's all bound to be edge-of-your-seat, nerve-wracking, and nail-biting right to the finish.
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