Familiar Ground

Ernest Ross, custom with NCAA Regional selections, opened the doors to his home Monday.

Ross never worries over what he can't control. The Rebels were an obvious choice for the postseason, considering their five consecutive top-five finishes this spring, including a second-place finish at the SEC Championship.

Team members, administrators, family and select media eagerly gathered around the phone as schools were slowly announced. The smell of freshly cooked steaks, with a side of green beans, filled the kitchen air.

With the team's familiarity with Georgia, the hope was Atlanta. Ole Miss has played in four tournaments in the Peach State this season, with none bigger than the conference tournament, where the Rebels had their best finish since 1988.

"We've played in a lot of tournaments in Georgia this year," Jonathan Randolph, a first-team All-SEC selection, said. "I love playing in Georgia."

Well, Jonathan, you'll have another chance. Ole Miss was named a No. 7 seed in the Atlanta Regional, hosted by Georgia Tech. Play is set for May 20-22.

Jonathan Randolph

"It's exciting and a little relieving to know," Randolph, a junior, said. "We've been done with school for a couple of days and haven't had a tournament since SECs.

"It really is nice to know that we're just going to be able to hop in the van and drive to Atlanta."

Monday's selection marks the ninth NCAA Championship appearance for Ole Miss and fourth since Ross returned to lead the program in 2004. The Rebels have now earned four consecutive NCAA Regional appearances.

The 13-team regional will be played at Capital City Club, Crabappple. The low five teams from six regionals advance to the finals, held at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the host institution for this year's 30-team national championship tourney.

"I hoped for Atlanta, because we're more familiar with the grasses that they'll have there," Ross said. "Washington and California would have been a little different. I'm really excited by the site we got."

When the announcement was made, Ross looked to his players. He asked what they thought, with the reaction rather simple. Said Sophomore Joe David, known for long drives off the tee, "We've got to go play golf."

It was a fitting answer. These Rebels long expected to be selected, so celebration could wait another week. Their only goal is to advance.

"I've been a part of a lot of teams," Randolph, who's made Regionals every year during his three years at Ole Miss, said. "I've never had a team peak like this. This team, if you look at how far we've come the entire year, it's been steadily improving. I'm really looking forward to it. I have a lot of faith in our guys."

Ole Miss joins a field led by No. 1 seeded Oklahoma State. Rounding out the top five seeds include Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Arkansas.

"I think we're playing better than where we are ranked right now," Ross said. "I think we've got as good a shot as anybody."


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