By Adam Brown
No. 15 Ole Miss men’s tennis defeated the Belmont Bruins 4-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the Oxford Regional on Saturday.
In the doubles portion of the match, the Rebels and the Bruins split the two matches on court two and three. On court one the Rebels broke the tie in a tiebreaker set to take the first point of the afternoon.
“I thought there were some jitters there in doubles. Belmont played very well and pushed us in doubles, ” head coach Toby Hansson said. “After we were able to get the doubles point I think the guys settled in and showed the quality we have on the court and started to play some good tennis.”
The Rebels cruised to victory via winning at No. 1, 3 and 4 singles. No. 29 Nikola Slavic won first, earning a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Luis on Court No. 3. Slavic earned his team-leading 14th victory this season and improved to 7-2 in the Rebels’ last 10 competitions. John Hallquist Lithén won on Court 4 moments after Slavic to put Ole Miss ahead 3-0. Lithén defeated Castro in a lopsided result, 6-1, 6-2. The match was clinched by No. 32 Tim Sandkaulen, who also clinched in doubles. Sandkaulen sealed a 4-0 Ole Miss victory by defeating Ilic in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
“I feel great. That first match is always tough, especially hosting, we haven’t done that in a while, so I feel like we were all feeling the pressure a little bit being the top seed, ” Sandkaulen said. “I feel like doubles was a little ugly today, but we got it done in the end. In singles, I think everybody was pretty solid. (Nikola Slavic) and John (Hallquist Lithen) they got off to a hot start, which helped the other guys calm their nerves a little bit.”
Ole Miss advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to meet the Tulane Green Wave.
Prior to the match with Belmont, the Rebels caught a glimpse of the Middle Tennessee vs Tulane matchup.
“We watched 10 or 15 minutes (of Tulane). I know some of the guys from Tulane, and it’s going to be a tough match, ” Sandkaulen sai. “I’ve played their No. 2 guy before, so it will be a tough match on every position, but I think if we do the things we’ve been working on all season we’ll be in good shape tomorrow.”
The Rebels and Green Wave will face off at 1 p.m. as the winner will advance on in the NCAA Tournament.
“Great win for us, and we’re looking forward to the match tomorrow against Tulane, ” Hansson said.