By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – As Ole Miss tennis begins play in the NCAA tournament, two things are making Billy Chadwick smile.
The Rebels’ coach is glad to be at home, and he’s glad to have Marcel Thiemann.
SEC Freshman of the Year Nik Sholtz has gone 13-6 at No. 1 singles, 7-4 in the league, but Thiemann has been a solid No. 2, going 10-1 in SEC play.
Strength at the top of a balanced lineup could serve the Rebels well in postseason.
“Marcel has had a phenomenal year. To go 10-1 in this league playing up at No. 2 … that’s a great feat,” Chadwick said.
No. 13 seed Ole Miss is hosting a regional for the 10th time, the first since 2008.
The NCAA women’s tournament begins today, with the Rebels also serving as a host.
On the men’s side, Michigan and Middle Tennessee will begin play at 9 a.m. Saturday, with Ole Miss and Binghamton to follow at noon.
The winners meet Sunday for the chance to advance to the Round of 16.
“Nik is obviously playing very well for us,” Chadwick said. “We have great senior leadership and others who have really improved.”
Scholtz is ranked No. 14 in singles and joins junior Jonas Lutjen in doubles where they are 16-5 and ranked No. 13.
Binghamton (15-11) earned the automatic bid from the America East Conference and is appearing in the NCAA tournament for the fifth-straight season, the eighth time in 10 years.
Michigan (17-7) is led by Big 10 Player of the Year Evan King, the nation’s No. 7 singles player.
“In the tournament format you have to be very careful at what you’re looking at. You lose in the first round, and you go home,” Chadwick said. “You have to play every single match and have the ability to play match after match if you’re going to go far.”
Ole Miss (17-8) is the No. 16 seed and is a host for the first two rounds for the first time since 1999.
Illinois and Rice meet at today at 11 a.m., with Ole Miss and Southern to follow.
The Rebels are led by Kristi Boxx, who went 15-6 at No. 1 singles, 9-1 in the SEC. Boxx is ranked No. 10 in singles and forms the No. 7-ranked doubles duo with teammate Abby Guthrie.