The sixth-seeded Ole Miss men’s tennis team faced off with the 11th-seeded Auburn Tigers in the second round of the SEC Tournament last Thursday morning.
The Rebels came to Knoxville on a seven-match winning streak with a 15-8 regular season record. In SEC play, the team has fought to an even 6-6 record. Auburn, on the other hand, boasted a record of 13-14 with just three conference wins.
Earlier this season, the Rebels made quick work of the Tigers, collecting a 4-0 match sweep. With a tournament quarterfinal matchup against the third-ranked Florida Gators and a chance to improve their national ranking (currently No. 28), the Rebels could not afford a loss.
His sights locked on early morning play, head coach Toby Hansson felt confident in his team’s end-of-season play and said his players could make noise at the tournament this year.
Tournament play commenced Thursday, and the first doubles match concluded with an Ole Miss victory. The young pairing of Filip Kraljevic and Tim Sandkaulen defeated Auburn’s Edward Nguyen and Brandon Laubser 6-4. The Rebels needed one more victory to claim the doubles point, and Fabian Fallert and Grey Hamilton came through in impressive fashion.
The pair’s No. 23 national ranking foreshadowed success, and the two dominated their opponents with ease. They improved their season record to 15-11 with a 6-4 upset win over the 19th-ranked Auburn duo of Max Hinnisdaels and Conner Huertas del Pino.
With doubles in the bag, Ole Miss needed three singles victories to punch its ticket to the tournament quarterfinals. Singles play featured Ole Miss freshman Tim Sandkaulen, sophomores Fabian Fallert, Filip Kraljevic and Robert Mounger, junior Grey Hamilton and senior Ricardo Jorge.
First to finish, the No. 6 matchup pitted Mounger against Auburn’s Brandon Laubser. The Tigers’ sophomore from South Africa was too much for the young Rebel to handle, and Ole Miss dropped its first singles match 6-1, 6-1.
Undeterred, the Rebels forged on, and the next three matches ended convincingly in Ole Miss’ favor. Grey Hamilton took down Edward Nguyen in two sets 6-4, 6-4, and Kraljevic overpowered Dante Saleh 6-3, 6-4, to take the match.
Ole Miss standout Fallert faced high expectations with the second most wins in SEC matches and a 10-1 conference record. Fallert lived up to the hype – the sophomore prevailed over Auburn’s senior Conner Huertas del Pino in two 6-0 sets.
With three singles victories and two well-earned doubles wins, the Rebels sent Auburn packing and advanced to the quarterfinals, where they are set to face the third-seeded Gators at 9 a.m. Friday.