OXFORD, Miss. -- In their first two matches, the No. 10 nationally-ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team went down to the wire to win, but this time they needed only to claim the doubles and the top three singles to down Indiana 4-0 in the finals of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend here Sunday at the Gillom Sports Center. With the win, the Rebels advance to the National Team Indoor Final 16 for the 17th consecutive year.
"It's exciting to see the team improve with every match," head coach Billy Chadwick said. We had big improvement in the doubles, and that propelled us into the singles. We played great doubles."
The Rebels (3-0) came out strong in doubles with the No.1 team of Tucker Vorster and Jonas Lutjen soundly beating the Hoosier team of Jeremey Langer and Lachalan Ferguson 8-1. The Thiemann twins, Marcel and Chris, followed up with an 8-3 win over Will Kendall and Stephen Vogl at No. 2 to clinch the point.
"It was very important to get the doubles point," Vorster said. "The previous two matches, we lost the point. It's a great confidence booster and gives us an edge to go out firing on all cylinders in the singles."
Lutjen continued his impressive play on the weekend, taking out Kendall 6-0, 6-2 at No. 3 singles to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead. The freshman improved to 2-1 in dual matches and afterwards he talked about winning in front of a big crowd.
"I had a good feeling out there," he said. "I just tried to finish it off quickly so that Tucker and Marcel could finish the match for us. It's so much fun to play here with a great crowd."
"We're really excited that Jonas is part of our program," Chadwick said. "He's one of the top players in college tennis, and he's a big reason that we're going to the team indoor final 16."
With the Rebels up 2-0, Vorster won his first set at No. 1 singles easily (6-2) against IU's Santiago Gruter. He served for the second set at 5-4, but the Hoosier broke back. It would go to a tiebreaker. Gruter gained the upper hand with a 5-2 lead and was serving. Vorster came up with two big shots on Gruter's serve to get to 5-4 and then won the next three points to take it 7-6(5) for his first win at No. 1 singles and propel the Rebels to a 3-0 lead.
"Coach was telling me to settle down (in the tiebreak). I got a little rushed," Vorster said. "I kept telling myself 'just make as many balls as possible, keep the ball in play and if you get an opportunity to be aggressive take it.' I stuck to my game plan, and fortunately I pulled it out. It was big for me to finish it off in the second set, because anything can happen in a third set."
"I am extremely proud of Tucker," Chadwick said. "This was his best day of the season so far. He's playing one, so if he's not at the top of his game, he's not going to win. He really stepped it up today, but it started with the doubles. That's the best doubles that he's played and it turned out to be the best singles that he's played.
Marcel Thiemann had to work hard at No. 2 singles against IU's Josh McTaggart to get the final point. After Thiemann won the first set 7-5, he fell behind 4-0 in the second set and everyone thought it was headed to a third set. But Thiemann stayed patient, stuck to his game and won five straight to take a 5-4 lead. He had a match point on McTaggart's serve and then had three match points at 6-5, before it went to a tiebreaker. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Thiemann won four straight points to clinch the victory and send the crowd of 675 on to Tad Smith Coliseum (for men's basketball game) happy.
"I am just happy we won and we get to go to Virginia," said Thiemann shortly after clinching. "In the beginning of the second set I was rushing. Coach settled me down and told me to stick to the game plan and wait for my opportunity. He told me to play my game and do what I had been doing the last five or six games. In the tiebreaker, I felt confident I could get it, especially with the crowd behind me. They were huge."
"The twins have been playing really solid the entire time," Chadwick said. "Our success has been on their shoulders. They've been winning every match they've played, as well as the doubles. They're doing an outstanding job."
The Rebels will host Troy Monday, Feb. 8 at the Gillom Sports Center, before heading to Charlottesville, Va., for the National Team Indoor Final 16. The draws for the Final 16 will be announced next week.
#10 Ole Miss 4
#50 Indiana 0
1. Vorster/Lutjen (OM) def. Langer/Ferguson (IU) 8-1
2. Thiemann/Thiemann (OM) def. Kendall/Vogl (IU) 8-3
3. Forberg Skogeng (OM) vs. Juneau/Armengaud (IU) 6-5, DNF
Order of Finish: 1, 2
1. Tucker Vorster (OM) def. Santiago Gruter (IU) 6-2, 7-6(5)
2. Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. Josh McTaggart (IU) 7-5, 7-6(3)
3. Jonas Lutjen (OM) def. Will Kendall (IU) 6-0, 6-2
4. Adrian Forberg Skogeng (OM) vs. Maxime Armengaud (IU) 4-3, DNF
5. Harry Fowler (OM) vs. Isade Juneau (IU) DNP
6. Chris Thiemann (OM) vs. Alex Van Gils (IU) DNP
Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2