Now it's on to Chicago Feb. 13-16 for the Sweet Sixteen of this prestigious event, and Rebel head coach Billy Chadwick is pleased to have gotten past rounds one and two on his home indoor courts.
"By the time the end of the year rolls around, you'll see all four of these teams in the Top 20 in the country, and Kentucky could be Top 10," he said of the Rebels and Wildcats, as well as Wake Forest and Rice, who rounded out the field.
Rice was already ranked in the Top 20 along with the 9th-ranked Rebels, and the Owls left Oxford with two losses in their matches against the Demon Deacons and Kentucky.
"There is just so much parity in collegiate tennis," Chadwick said. "It's great to have a young team and see them have to work really, really hard. I wouldn't say we played especially well. At the same time, you have to look at it this way. We're playing four freshmen. The ones that really won for us were our seniors and our junior."
Seniors Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge and junior Kalle Norberg went a combined 6-0 in singles for the two days to lead the Rebels.
In Sunday's championship match against the Demon Deacons, who beat Rice on Saturday to advance to play Ole Miss, the Rebels won the doubles point.
After the two teams split in doubles, with the Rebels winning at No. 2 and Wake Forest taking the No.1 match, the doubles point came down to German freshmen twins Marcel and Chris Thiemann against the Demon Deacon duo of Jason Morgenstern and Jon Wolff. The match went to a tiebreaker, and the Wake duo served for the match at 8-7 only to double fault for 8-8. Ole Miss won the next two points as the crowd of nearly 500 roared.
"Doubles is always important, and it was nice to get that doubles point today," said Chadwick, his team losing the doubles to UK on Saturday.
Then in singles on Sunday, Jonas Berg dispatched of his opponent, Steve Forman, in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2 to make it 2-0 Rebels.
Wake got on the board when senior Cory Parr held off Ole Miss freshman Devin Britton in a third set tiebreaker. One break of serve decided the first set 6-4 for Parr, and then Britton was able to get a break in the second to win it 6-4.
That would be it for the Demon Deacons as Kalle Norberg defeated Andrew Brasseux at No. 3 singles, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to give Ole Miss a 3-1 lead, and Bram ten Berge finished off David Hopkins 6-4, 6-3 at No. 4 singles to clinch the win.
"Wake Forest is a very good indoor team," Chadwick said. "They're all big hitters. They all like to come at you. All the matches were really close."
Norberg, the junior who played both days at No. 3 singles, said the doubles point was a key. He has won all three of his singles matches so far this season but wasn't as pleased with his performance Sunday.
"The doubles point was a big difference," Norberg said. "I am not happy with the way I played, but I won. It was a fun weekend for the freshmen to get a feel for the big crowds and the tight matches. I think they all enjoyed it. This was a big weekend for us."
Britton, who played No. 1 singles for the Rebels this weekend, lost both his singles matches but showed much improvement Sunday.
"Devin was much better today and looked much more comfortable out there," Chadwick said. "He served well and showed what he's capable of doing. He's having success in doubles, and that will carry over to singles."
More than a thousand fans packed the Gillom Sports Center for the Rebels' matches over the two days, and it proved to be a huge advantage.
"We would like to thank the crowd," Chadwick said. "In the Kentucky match (which Ole Miss won 4-3), the crowd was the difference. They stuck with us for five hours each day. It was exciting being able to showcase our facility, and for our fans to see our four new players. The crowd knows they played a part in our wins. It was a big weekend for Ole Miss."
Next up for the Rebels is the annual battle against arch-rival Mississippi State in the River Hills Mississippi Cup in Jackson. That's this Thursday at 5 p.m., at River Hills Tennis Club. To order tickets call (601) 987-4438
On To Chicago!
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