By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Billy Chadwick is excited to host the SEC men’s tennis tournament at the Rebels’ Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center.
He’s most excited, however, by the continued progress of one of his top players, Nik Scholtz.
The tournament begins today with Arkansas and Alabama at 2 p.m. Mississippi State faces Kentucky on Thursday night at 7. The Rebels, the tournament’s No. 5 seed and ranked No. 6 nationally, will face Arkansas-Alabama winner on Thursday.
They’ll have a much healthier Scholtz when they take the court.
“Two weeks ago if someone told me I was going to feel as good as I feel now I wouldn’t have believed them,” said Scholtz, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Caledon, South Africa.
Scholtz is 19-7 in overall singles, 11-5 in SEC play.
He began to experience pain in his elbow after the Arkansas-LSU trip in late March. The road to recovery was not without pain on the front end.
“I got an injection in my elbow. It’s probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced, but it was definitely worth it. I’ve been improving a lot,” he said.
Scholtz says it’s helped him to get back to competitive matches rather than just practice. He was down one set at Texas A&M on Sunday when his match was suspended. The Rebels eventually lost 4-1 to the 14th-ranked Aggies with whom the share the SEC West title.
“The elbow issues slowed Nick down for really the last three weeks,” Chadwick said. “He was much, much stronger against Texas A&M.”
A healthy Scholtz is a big advantage this week, and so is playing at home.
The Rebels are 15-7 overall, 7-5 in the league and 8-3 on their courts.
Chadwick is hopeful of a good showing this week to play at home again in an NCAA regional.
The program’s success through the years has helped it develop a strong home following. That could be an even bigger boost with the parity in the SEC. Though Ole Miss is the No. 5 seed it has wins both of the top two seeds, Georgia, which went 11-1 in conference play, and Tennessee which went 8-4.
“Being able to host this tournament, especially in a year where it’s wide open, there are so many good teams, we need to take advantage of playing here at home and make it our week,” Chadwick said.
Starkville hosts women’s tournament
The SEC women’s tennis championships begins today in Starkville with No. 12 seed Mississippi State playing No. 13 seed Missouri at 11 a.m. at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
It’s a rematch of a contest that MSU (8-13, 2-11 SEC) won at home on Sunday, 4-2 to wrap up the regular season.
No. 11 seed Kentucky plays No. 14 seed LSU at 2 p.m. No. 9 seed Ole Miss (15-12, 5-7) plays No. 8 South Carolina on Thursday at 8 a.m. The winner advances to play top-seeded Georgia on Friday.
The women’s tourney concludes on Sunday.