Tennis Rebs fall in Elite Eight

Fifth-seed Ole Miss fell short of its goal of reaching the Final Four and playing on toward a national championship. Standing in the Rebels' way was fourth-seed Georgia, which advanced with a 4-0 win on Sunday.

Ole Miss lost the doubles point and couldn't make up any ground in singles. Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick said all hope was definitely not lost after doubles play, even though the Bulldogs are always tough and are the defending national champions.

"We knew we could win the doubles point, and we were disappointed when we didn't," said Chadwick, whose team was shooting for its first Final Four since 2005. "But we had beaten Vanderbilt and North Carolina in our last two matches when we lost the doubles point, and so we didn't panic by any means."

But the Rebels, who ended their season with a 24-5 record, weren't able to catch a powerful Georgia team, 25-3, with its eyes set on repeating. The Bulldogs play No. 1 seed Virginia at 5 p.m. Monday in the semi-finals. The Cavaliers beat No. 9 seed Baylor to advance.

No. 7 seed Texas, which upset No. 2 seed Ohio State, plays No. 3 seed UCLA in the other semi-final match. The Bruins beat arch-rival and No. 6 seed Southern Cal to reach the Final Four.

Georgia's doubles team of Nate Schnugg and Jamie Hunt, ranked 17th nationally, knocked off 5th-ranked Jonas Berg and Erling Tveit 8-4 at No. 1. Then Matthias Wellermann and Bram ten Berge dropped an 8-6 decision to UGA's Luis Flores and Javier Garrapiz at No. 2 for the point. The No. 3 match between the Ole Miss duo of Jakob Klaeson/Tucker Vorster and Georgia's Travis Helgeson/Christian Vitulli was tied 6-6 when play was stopped.

The Bulldogs claimed five of the first sets in singles with only Berg at No. 4 capturing his first set. Ten Berge lost to Vitulli 7-5, 6-3 at No. 6 as Georgia went up 2-0.

At No. 1, Helgeson, ranked No. 4 in the nation, defeated Tveit, ranked No. 22 in singles, to win 6-4, 6-4 making it 3-0 Bulldogs.

By this time the Rebels were in quite a fix, and Georgia managed to get one win more to advance. At No. 2 singles, Wellermann lost his first set 6-4 but held off match points against Schnugg, breaking back at 5-3 and holding serve to force a second-set tiebreaker. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Wellermann won four of the next five points to win it 7-4 and force a third set. In the third set Schnugg moved out to a big lead at 3-0 and ended up winning 6-1 to clinch the Bulldog's victory and end the Rebels' 12-match winning streak.

"We fought well. We fought hard," said a disappointed Chadwick that his team didn't move on. "Our guys have a lot to be proud of. This was a great group of seniors."

Leaving the program will be seniors Erling Tveit, Jakob Klaeson, Robbye Poole, and Matthias Wellermann.

"Georgia played a very, very good match," Chadwick said. "They were tough in doubles, especially at No. 1. That is one of the best matches I've seen them play at one doubles, so they deserved to win that one. They were making their serves and making their returns. They were moving, and that was the difference in the doubles. We've been very successful at one doubles and that was a position we felt like we could win.

"In singles they jumped on us early. There were a couple of key matches. We felt six was a key match that they won. The rest of them were just really what you would call epic battles, up and down. It goes down at 4-0, but it was a close, close match."

This season the Rebels won their seventh consecutive SEC West title, captured the SEC Tournament Championship and hosted a regional for the eighth year in a row, advancing to the Elite Eight for the eighth time in the history of the program.

The season isn't over for some of the Rebels as they begin play in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships Wednesday. Tveit, Wellermann and Poole are in singles, while Tveit and Berg will team up in doubles, along with Wellermann and ten Berge.


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