OXFORD, Miss. – The sixth-seeded Ole Miss men’s tennis team weathered a rain delay and then took care of Lehigh 4-0 in the first round of the NCAA Championships here Friday evening to advance to Saturday’s second round against Memphis at 2 p.m. Earlier in the day, Memphis beat BYU 4-0 indoors at the Gillom Sports Center.
The Ole Miss/Lehigh match was just about to start on time at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center, when a heavy downpour came. The match was delayed until 4:30 while the grounds crew dried the courts. The sun came out, and allowed the Rebels to build a 2-0 lead by taking the doubles point and a singles win on court four.
Playing their first match in three weeks after falling in the second round of the SEC Tournament, the Rebels took care of business in the doubles. Johan Backstrom and Stefan Lindmark won 8-2 at No. 2 and then William Kallberg and Adrian Forberg Skogeng secured an 8-4 win at No. 3 doubles. Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz, ranked No. 3 in the nation, had match point when their teammates clinched it.
Lindmark carried his great play over to singles, taking out Lehigh’s Matt Savarn 6-1, 6-0 on court four to make it 2-0.
With Ole Miss leading on all but one of the remaining courts and close to closing out the Mountain Hawks, another heavy downpour came forcing the remainder of singles inside.
All Ole Miss had to do once inside, was close out two of the three courts where they were mere points away. Lutjen finished off Ben Gilman 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles and then Kallberg closed out Mitchell Petersen 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 for the win.
“It was great that we got to play outside, we had a good crowd,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “Lehigh was a good team. I thought the guys were focused, and we did a good job in doubles. We were pushed and that was a good thing. It looks like the weather is going to be good tomorrow. With us getting to play outside today, that will be a little bit of an advantage. I want to encourage everybody to come out.”
The Rebels and Tigers will square off for the second time this season Saturday with a berth in the Sweet Sixteen on the line. Ole Miss defeated Memphis 4-2 back on Feb. 27 in Oxford in the team’s first outdoor match of the season.
In the Rebels’ last match against Memphis, it was a battle that came down to the wire. Lutjen rallied to win his match at No. 2 singles to clinch the 4-2 win. Memphis played without its No. 1 player, Connor Glennon, against BYU, but Chadwick says he expects to see the Englishman in the lineup Saturday.
“They’re seven deep, but I will not be surprised if he plays against us,” Chadwick said. “Memphis is a tough team, and they showed that beating Tulsa to win their conference. It’s going to be a tough match.”
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