With the NCAA snub of an Oxford Regional now a disappointing memory, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team is trying to focus on what it hopes will be a championship future.
The Rebels, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, was sent on the road by the NCAA for the first two rounds but responded with wins last Saturday over Alcorn State (4-0) and LSU (4-2) to reach the Sweet 16.
Another challenge awaits as Ole Miss (26-2) must now face Texas A&M (17-8) on its home court Thursday at 6 p.m. The Rebels have won 19 straight matches.
Ole Miss led the nation in attendance this season with 550 fans per match, but players expect bigger crowds in College Station, Texas.
“Texas A&M will try to have as many people there as they can, and there will be people who come out to watch us, because we’re the No. 2 seed,” freshman Devin Britton said. “There will always be hecklers. Sometimes it’s entertaining to listen to what they’re saying, but you can’t focus on that.”
Britton is 21-9 in singles this season and hasn’t played lower than third in the order. He’s most at home at No. 2 where he’s 13-4 and is 3-3 at No. 1. A native of Jackson – the only U.S.-born player on the roster – Britton was 7-4 against SEC foes this season and Tuesday was named Southeast region rookie of the year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
‘Tough win’ at LSU
Once the initial shock of playing on the road wore off, the Rebels were able to overcome the adversity and defeat LSU for a third time this season.
“Taking the doubles point was huge, and we played a few good singles matches. It was a tough win,” said Britton, whose 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 come-from-behind win secured the match for Ole Miss.
Against 15th-seeded Texas Aamp&M, the Rebels will be going for the program’s ninth Elite Eight appearance and second in a row.
The program has reached the Final Four four times but not since 2005. The Rebels played for the national title in 1995.
There is one remaining holdover from the last Final Four team, senior Bram ten Berg. He played doubles as a freshman on that team but was later forced to sit out a season with injuries.
Players like their chances to advance due in part to the recent misfortune.
“It definitely challenged us to get ready mentally, and we did that. We played a good, tough match, and it prepared us more for Texas A&M,” Britton said.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal