By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Healthy, rested and ready, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team opens NCAA tournament play at home today against Lehigh.
Ole Miss, the NCAA’s No. 6 seed, is hosting a regional for the 11th time overall, the second straight season.
The Rebels haven’t played since losing to Alabama in the first round of the SEC tourney, which Ole Miss also hosted. That was almost three weeks ago.
It was a rare home defeat. The Rebels are 143-22 at home since 2000.
First match at the Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center is at noon between Memphis and BYU. Ole Miss and Lehigh are scheduled for a 3 p.m., start.
The winners will play Saturday at 2 for a shot at the Sweet 16 round.
“We needed a resting time period, because we had some injuries, so it came at a good time. That being said, it’s a big-time challenge to get back in there and play a match having not played for three weeks, but the guys have been working hard. They’re ready,” Ole Miss coach Billy Chadwick said.
Chadwick feels much better about the health of his top singles player, Nik Scholtz, who was still on the mend from an elbow injury when the Rebels lost to Alabama.
Scholtz is ranked No. 14 in singles. Jonas Lutjen is ranked No. 20. Both have been named All-Americans, and together they form the No. 30-ranked doubles team.
“Jonas is really playing the best tennis of his career. We’re very excited about that,” Chadwick said.
Lehigh is 18-5 and won the Patriot League to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Lehigh sophomore Ben Gilman was named to the all-conference team. He’s 15-7 in singles and will competed at No. 2.
Ole Miss has advanced to the Sweet 16 each time it has hosted the first rounds.
“Lehigh has a real good record. They don’t play the strength of schedule that we do, and we’re in hopes that our experience in the conference will make the difference,” Chadwick said.