OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss men’s tennis team earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Championships, but will not host the first and second rounds. Instead, the SEC Champions will travel to Baton Rouge, La., May 8-9 where they will face Alcorn State in the first round, with LSU and Rice in the other half.
“I don’t have any idea how this happened,” said a stunned head coach Billy Chadwick. “The only thing we can do is swallow the medicine, get tough and go down to Baton Rouge and take them down.
“We got the call about 20 minutes before the show that due to regionalization and trying to keep too many teams from having to travel far, that two teams in the top six would not be hosting. We were one of them.
”The Rebels will face Alcorn State in the first round Friday, May 8. LSU and Rice will square off in the other match. The final will be played Saturday, May 9 with the winner advancing to the “Sweet Sixteen” in College Station, Texas.
“If you’re trying to grow the sport, it seems very odd thatthey would have the place that is leading the nation in attendance and is No. 2 in the nation not hosting,” Chadwick added. “I think they could have figured out some way that if someone (in top 16) doesn’t have to host it would go to a lower seed. What you’re playing for the entire year is home court advantage, and the better you do, the better your chances to host are. To me, they just made a mistake on this one, but we don’t have any choice. We just have to make the best of it.
“There will be people all over the place outraged, because they see that this could happen to anyone. They need to have some type of rules and regulations so that when you look at it and you’re one of the top seeds, your chances of hosting will be great. It’s extremely disappointing for the players and for the community. We’ve had a great fan base all year. We’ve hosted eight years in a row, and now we have to go to Baton Rouge. We played down there earlier and we have to do it again.”
Chadwick talked about the team using this as motivation saying “It’s a little different then if you get messed over in the seeding. But, you’re the No. 2 seed, and you’re told you have to go to Baton Rouge to play, it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Not only do the Rebels have to go to Baton Rouge to face LSU, but they could potentially face Texas A&M in the round of 16 on their homecourt.
“You’re playing another SEC team that is very good on their home cour,” Chadwick said. “Whoever wins out of that region will most likely be playing Texas A&M on their home court in the round of 16. It’s a very difficult assignment. If we’re going to win the championship, we have to go do it in Baton Rouge.”
Ole Miss (24-2) is making its 16th consecutive NCAA appearance and 18th overall. The Rebels have advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” 14 times and the NCAA Final Four four times. Ole Miss had hosted an NCAA Regional every year since 1999 except in 2000 when they had to travel to Blacksburg, Va.
This marks the fourth time for the Rebels to be seeded top five in the NCAA Championships, and the highest seed since 1997, when they were also the No. 2 seed. They advanced to the Final Four that year.
The Rebels won the SEC regular season championship, captured the SEC Tournament Championship for the second year in a row, and won their eighth straight SEC Western Division title.
A huge reason for the Rebels success this season has been the leadership provided by seniors Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge. In addition, the Rebels have gotten outstanding play from junior Kalle Norberg in singles and doubles and sophomore Tucker Vorster in doubles.
Devin Britton, Otto Sauer, Marcel Thiemann and Chris Thiemann were all named SEC Freshman of the Week a total of six times. In addition, they have combined to clinch 15 of the Rebels’ 24 wins this year.
Britton clinched the tournament championship for the Rebels this past weekend coming out on top in the second set against Tennessee. He said while it’s a shock to the team, they’ll adjust.
“It’s definitely a shocker, because we’ve been thinking that we would be hosting,” he said. “We played the whole year to earn the right to host and now we don’t get to, so it’s just a shock. It’s just a road block. We’ll get through, and we’ll probably come out stronger because of it. We’re going to go down to Baton Rouge and take care of business.
“I feel bad for the seniors (Bram and Jonas) because they’re parents were coming to see them graduate. It’s definitely unfortunate.”
Ten teams from the SEC earned NCAA bids with Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama and LSU hosting.
Ole Miss Media Relations