The deciding point came down to singles play at court six, but freshman Marcel Thiemann couldn't notch his 10th straight win to the seal victory, as the No. 2 seeded Ole Miss men's tennis fell to No. 7 UCLA 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships Sunday.
Bruin sophomore Nick Meister rallied from a set down to clinch the Bruin victory, after falling 6-3 in the first. Thiemann had three break point chances at 5-5 in the second, but the set eventually went to a tiebreaker. Meister eventually won 7-5 to force the decisive set to decide the match.
While their season comes to a close with the loss, the Rebels finish the season as the winningest team in school history with an overall record of 27-3.
"It was just an unbelievably talented team we were competing against today," head coach Billy Chadwick said of the Bruins. "We put ourselves in position to win, but fell just short. These guys pride themselves in how hard they fight. That match at No. 6 singles was the best I've ever seen. Give the guy from UCLA credit, but Marcel played outstanding tennis."
Before the match, the Rebel freshmen held a combined record of 27-1 in doubles and singles play during the tournament. However, both Otto Sauer and Thiemann dropped their respective matches at No. 5 and No. 6 singles.
While the season finale was disappointing, Chadwick said the youngsters should be commended for their strong play all season.
"These freshmen weren't afraid of anybody," said Chadwick. "I know how good UCLA is, but they just said ‘bring them on.' That's a great way to go into the arena. My hat is off to the freshmen for the way they played all season."
The tone of the match was set in doubles, as UCLA was able to take an early 1-0 lead after gaining the point.
First to win was the duo of Matt Brooklyn and Holden Seguso, who broke junior Kalle Noberg and Sauer twice for an 8-6 victory. The Bruins clinched the point when Michael Look and Nick Meister defeated top-ranked Jonas Berge and Bram ten Berge 8-5 at court one.
Coming into the day, the Rebels were 22-1 when winning the doubles point.
"While we dropped the doubles point, it didn't affect our play in singles," Chadwick said. "Actually, it made us more determined. Obviously it affected the outcome of the match because it was the swing point, but it takes more than losing doubles for these guys to give up the victory and shake hands."
The Bruins went ahead 2-0 when ten Berge fell in straight sets to Seguso, 6-2, 6-2.
But displaying the resolve they've shown all season, Ole Miss came storming back. Britton won a three-set contest on court two, taking out Haythem Abid 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. He broke at 4-4 in the third and held serve to put the Rebels on the board.
Berg, ranked No. 16 in the nation, evened the overall score when he downed 64th-ranked Matt Brooklyn 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles. Norberg notched his 17th consecutive singles win after downing Harel Srugo in straight sets at No. 3 singles.
"They did their job and they did it against three of the top players in the nation," said Chadwick of his top singles trio. "It was good to see Jonas really play one of his better matches of the year. Devin continued to show he can play with the top players in the nation and also take them down. Kalle is the heart-and-soul of the team.
"Really and truly, Kalle's play helped guide the freshmen this season. They were able to see his approach and how hard he worked for every match. The real thing he does is bring that competitiveness to the team."
UCLA's Michael Look tied it up at 3-3 with his 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory against Sauer on court five, setting up the final outcome on court six.
Ole Miss ends an outstanding season that saw the team win the SEC regular season for the fifth time in the history of the program and repeat as SEC Tournament Champions. They captured their eighth straight SEC West title and reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the ninth time.
With such a talented core returning, Chadwick anticipates another banner year next season.
"This season was a great sign of things falling into place for the future," Chadwick said. "We had a lot of question marks (entering the year). We lost our top three players from the year before. So to come back and have one of the best years in our history is really a tribute to our team.
"It was a great combination of the young and the old. As good as our freshmen were, Kalle was better. Jonas and Bram were solid all year long. Jonas proved he could play No. 1 singles. Every single person contributed. This will go down as one of our most successful years here."
***Note: Ole Miss Athletic Media Relations contributed to this report.
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