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Tennis teams set to open league play this weekend

Cain Madden/The Daily Mississippian


The No. 44 Ole Miss men’s and No. 18 Ole Miss women’s tennis teams will begin Southeastern Conference play this weekend. Both teams will be taking on Auburn and Alabama.

The men’s team is coming off a win over No. 32 Memphis on Tuesday and knows things are only going to get harder down the road this season.

“We know that Auburn is a very strong team top to bottom,” men’s head coach Billy Chadwick said. “We’ll have to be at our best to beat them. We need a big crowd.”

No. 12 Auburn comes into Oxford Friday afternoon with a 10-2 overall record and its only two losses on the season have come to No. 2 Virginia and No. 14 Texas. The Tigers are led by the No. 20 player in the nation, junior Andreas Mies, who is 18-4 overall and 6-1 at No. 1 singles. However, the Rebels feel that they will play Auburn tight and give them a run for their money.

“We have two good teams coming in this weekend, especially Auburn,” sophomore Johan Backstrom said. “It is a great opportunity for us to prove ourselves and show that we are a good team and that we belong up there. We are really excited to play them and looking forward to a good match.”

The No. 46 Alabama Crimson Tide will roll in on Sunday with a 5-4 overall record, coming off a 2-1 showing this past weekend.

Ole Miss dropped out of the top 25 in the latest ITA national rankings, but this weekend is an opportune chance for the Rebels to get back to where they want to be.

On the women’s side, the Rebels will be on the road to take on No. 67 Auburn on Friday and No. 25 Alabama on Sunday. Ole Miss heads to Alabama with a 7-4 overall record and is on a three-match win streak, highlighted by a win over No. 19 Tulsa.

“We’re excited to start the SEC season,” women’s head coach Mark Beyers said. “It is obviously a great group of teams with great rankings and some good challenges coming up for us. It’s always tougher on the road, though.”

The Rebels will be led this weekend by the usual players in seniors Kristi Boxx and Abby Guthrie. However, freshman Julia Jones was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Wednesday and looks to also be a force in the matches this weekend. Boxx is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation with a 5-4 record at No. 1. She is also one more doubles win away from tying former three-time All-American Courtenay Chapman for most all-time.

Auburn enters Friday’s match with a record of 5-3 and No. 25 Alabama currently holds a 5-2 record.

“They are two tough teams,” Beyers said. “There are no ‘gimmies’ anymore. Auburn and Alabama are good teams, and it’s going to be a battle. But I think we’re prepared mentally because we’ve had such a tough schedule, so I don’t think the girls are going to be intimidated by it being an SEC match. I think there is nothing new and there won’t be any extra butterflies or anything like that.”

The men’s team will begin play against Auburn at 2 p.m. Friday at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center/Galtney courts, followed by Alabama at 1 p.m. Sunday. The women will begin play at 2 p.m. Friday in Auburn, then play at 1 p.m. Sunday in Tuscaloosa.