Byers, Rebels set to hit the ground running

baseball_icon_greenBy John Davis

Sports Editor

It may be freezing cold outside, but for the Ole Miss women, the 2017 spring tennis season is about to get going. Ole Miss coach Mark Beyers and his Rebels are headed to Irvine, California next week to start a string of matches that also includes a trip to Hawaii. The Rebels won’t actually play a home match until Feb. 17 against Lipscomb and before all that happens, there are a number of competitive matches Beyers can use to evaluate his team.

Beyers called the fall season “efficient” adding that any time you have an entire team playing individual events, there are always results that surprise as well as those that make a coach feel like more could have been accomplished.

“I think different girls had good wins at different times and there were times where the results weren’t as good as we thought they should be. But overall, I thought it was pretty decent,” Beyers said. “And I felt like the things that did go wrong, we were able to correct them in practice and by the end of the fall, we were a better team than we were at the beginning of the fall.”

Junior Arianne Hartono showed during the fall why she was an All-American with the way she played, especially at the Riviera ITA All-American Championships.

“She ended up losing in the semifinals out there and had a solid fall overall. She showed why she led the team at the top of the lineup last year and why she will probably do that again,” Beyers said. “Another player who had a really good fall was our lone senior, Zalina Khairudinova. We talked to her at the end of last year and with the fact that she is a senior and to be a leader on this team. She’s done a really good job of that. She has matured so much in the last three years. She had a great fall and she wants to go out and have a great last semester and she has definitely done everything she can to make sure that happens.”

The juniors and seniors, Beyers said, have done a good job of taking the younger players under their wing and showing them how to win.

“I know that Natalie Suk has done a good job of showing Anna (Vrbenska) the ropes and what it takes and Zalina has done a good job over the last few years of being a team captain and showing a lot of leadership,” Beyers said.

The players reported back on campus Saturday and that gives just a little time to get going again from a team standpoint. The Rebels were headed to California on Monday to get ready for Irvine.

“We definitely hit the ground running and we talked to all of them about making sure to do their work over the break and that they stay busy over the break,” Beyers said. “We told them to make sure they’re practicing and getting their workouts in because we only have a week when we get back before that first match. There isn’t a whole lot of time to get ready at that particular time.”

Beyers spent the first part of December across the Atlantic Ocean on the recruiting trail in the Czech Republic. Two of the Rebels are from the Czech Republic, while a total of five are from a country other than America.

“They see an opportunity to get an education and also further their tennis career. When I was coaching on the men’s side and now on the women’s side, we’ve had some tremendous student-athletes who did just a great job on the court and even a better job in the classroom, graduating magna and summa cum laude in getting their degree,” Beyers said. “I try to keep that combination and some of our best teams is when we have that mix. This year’s team will be about a 50-50 split between American and international kids. I think when it comes to recruiting, coming to Ole Miss is attractive to both American kids and also international kids. To maintain that 50-50 split is definitely something we try to do. If there are great players in our area, then I want them to come to Ole Miss first and foremost. But we also have a lot of tremendous athletes come from outside of the United States and we want to get the best players in the world and make Ole Miss tennis better.”

Twitter: @oxfordcitizenjd

About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.