The Ole Miss men’s tennis team looks to start the spring season strong while hosting the ITA Kick-Off this weekend at the Gillom Sports Center.
The No. 10 Rebels have the first match of the ITA Kick-Off, hosting No. 26 Michigan Saturday at 10 a.m. No. 22 Illinois will play No. 23 Clemson in the next match. The winners Saturday will advance to the regional championship at 1 p.m. Sunday. The losers will play at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick is looking forward to seeing his team in action and sees a great opportunity in opening up the weekend against the Wolverines.
“We saw them two years ago when they came down here. We were hosting regionals,” Chadwick said. “We had a tough, tough battle with them. They’re always a well-prepared team, talented team, and so we’ll have our hands full.”
The team will have a great opportunity to start the season strong this weekend playing three ranked teams.
“It’s a huge opportunity and a very important weekend for us as a team,” senior Johan Backstrom said. “All three teams coming in are really good teams. If we manage to actually get through these two matches, that’s key for the rest of the season. It would be of huge importance for us for the rest of the season as far as rankings go.”
This past weekend, the Rebels began their spring season at the MLK Invitational In Atlanta. In the tournament, the Rebels played No. 3 Georgia, No. 21 Memphis and Georgia Tech. The Rebels picked up seven wins in singles matches and two wins in doubles matches. The team gained a lot of experience and preparation heading into this weekend.
“Our objective was to prepare for this weekend coming up,” Chadwick said. “The format of the tournament that we went to guaranteed three singles and three doubles, and it was against great competition, so we feel like we accomplished what we wanted to and that we are better prepared for this weekend.”
This weekend is the first home match for the Rebels as the team comes home and tries to get its season off to a good start against great competition.
“You are looking at four teams in this regional that are very equal,” Chadwick said. “What we have to take advantage of is that we are playing at home, and we need to make that the difference in putting us over the hump. And if we get a good crowd out there, it could be the difference in us advancing to the final 16 or not.”
The winner of the four-team regional will advance to the National Team Indoor Championship on Feb. 14-17 in Houston, Texas.
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss mens’ tennis, follow @drubino11 and @thedm_sports on Twitter.