Wednesday, August 17, 2022

History Awaits for Ole Miss’ Scholtz at NCAA Championships

When he discussed his reasons for returning for his final year, Ole Miss men’s tennis senior Nik Scholtz talked about wanting to win a national championship, team or individual, becoming the first four-time All-American in the history of the program and graduating.

Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Photo courtesy Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

With his degree in hand, Scholtz begins his quest for history Wednesday in Waco, Texas, as the NCAA Individual Championships get underway at the Hurd Tennis Center on the campus of Baylor University.

Scholtz enters the NCAAs with a 16-5 record and ranked No. 18 in the nation. He drew a tough assignment in the first round, as he will face the No. 1 player in the nation, Oklahoma’s Axel Alvarez Wednesday at 3 p.m. Alvarez has won 23 straight heading into Tuesday’s championship match against Virginia.

This is the fourth consecutive year Scholtz has qualified for the NCAA singles, and he has reached at least the round of 16 all three years, including the Elite Eight as a freshman in 2012.

“Nik is looking forward to the opportunity this week to close out his career on a fantastic note,” head coach Toby Hansson said. “Obviously starting off with the No. 1 player is a tough draw, but Nik has beaten several really good players this year. If he plays the way we know he is capable, he has a great chance.”

For the third time in his career, Scholtz will also participate in the doubles, this time with freshman Zvonimir Babic.

“We were all bummed when we didn’t advance in the team portion, but we still have a lot to play for,” Scholtz said. “It’s great to have Z going with me as a freshman. It will help him so much with his confidence and growth as a player moving forward, since he has three more years left.”

Scholtz and Babic will face Henry Craig and Alex Gasson of Denver in the first round Thursday. Babic became the seventh Rebel freshman to qualify for the NCAAs in singles or doubles, but he doesn’t want to just go, he wants to make a little history himself. There have only been two players in program history to earn All-America honors as a freshman, one being Scholtz, and the other, 2009 NCAA Singles Champion, Devin Britton.

“I am really excited to be in the NCAA Championships in doubles, and I am aware of the history,” Babic said. “We have high expectations, and I am pretty confident that Nik and I can do well. We started playing better the last few matches than we did at the beginning of the season. We picked up some really good wins.”

“It’s an exciting tournament to be in, and I know they will both go out there and enjoy it regardless of the outcome,” Hansson said. “Nik can be a good influence on Zvonimir and Z can help Nik as well. I think they complement each other well on the court.”

Last month, Scholtz became the first player in program history to earn All-SEC first team honors all four years. There is more history to be made this week in Waco, and Scholtz is well aware of the significance of his final go around in a Rebel uniform.

“I am obviously aware of the history, and it’s something I would like to achieve. I am just trying to focus on the preparation and take it one step at a time. What will happen, will happen. It’s beyond your control. You just have to prepare as best you can, be ready for every match you play. I want to finish knowing that I did everything in my power to achieve the best result possible.”

The first three years Scholtz was seeded 9-16, but this year he is just outside that range. However, he has beaten four of the top 16 seeds this year, among his 11 nationally-ranked wins.

“The only difference in being seeded is you’re not going to face a seeded player in the first round,” Scholtz said. “But every player in the draw is good or else they wouldn’t be here. I know every match is going to be a battle.”

All matches will feature live scoring and live video at the NCAA Championship Central page.

Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics

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