No. 29 Ole Miss men’s tennis pulled off yet another dramatic win over a ranked opponent on Sunday, as the Rebels toppled No. 21 Texas A&M in the team’s final home match of the season, 4-3.
The Rebels (16-6, 6-4 SEC) earned a crucial doubles point to open their day, and wins across the team’s top three singles players, including a clinching victory from Simon Junk proved enough to seal the Top 25 victory over the Aggies (14-9, 6-4 SEC) on Senior Day.
“It’s just so fitting that Simon was able to win that last match for us,” head coach Toby Hansson said. “His last match at home and he delivers. I’m just so proud of him.”
The Aggies got to work right away to open the doubles portion of the match, as the Rebel duo of Junk/Lithen was unable to take down the No. 40 doubles team in the nation from Texas A&M in Schachter/Hilderbrand. With a 6-3 loss on Court 1, the Rebels were now needing to sweep the remaining two doubles matches in order to clinch the doubles point in favor of Ole Miss.
On Court 3, Nikola Slavic and Noah Schlagenhauf did their part, mounting an impressive 6-2 victory to level the playing field with the Aggies. The senior-freshman duo has now won two of their past three doubles matches together, helping to claim the doubles point in the wins today and against LSU last weekend.
All eyes then turned to No. 2 doubles, where Lukas Engelhardt and Isac Strömberg looked to close out doubles on a high note for the Rebels. After a late surge from the Aggies, the Rebel duo saw themselves in a tiebreaker to decide the match’s doubles point.
Fueled by their teammates and an energetic crowd at Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center, Engelhardt and Strömberg grinded out what proved to be a decisive doubles point for the Rebels, claiming their 6-6 tiebreaker by a score of 7-4. This gave Ole Miss an early 1-0 advantage heading into singles play.
“We played really well on No. 3 and No. 2 doubles today,” Hansson said. “We were up big and found a way to win that last one in a tiebreaker. That was pretty much the key to the match for us today was getting that doubles point.”
Despite a strong showing in doubles play to open the match from the Rebels, the Aggies responded back quickly to turn the tide early in singles action as Texas A&M would grab a pair of straight-set wins on Court 4 and Court 5 to jump in front of the Rebels, 2-1.
Freshman Isac Strömberg faced a tall task on Court 6 as well, as he took on the first ranked singles opponent of his young collegiate career. While Strömberg was able to hang his hat on a 6-3 first-set win, he would ultimately drop his final two sets to put the Rebels down 3-1 to the Aggies. Ole Miss now needed to sweep out the remaining three matches in order to take down A&M.
Junior John Hallquist Lithen got the Rebels back on track by adding a major ranked win to his resume on the year, as Lithen battled his way through No. 62 ranked Raphael Perot to earn a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory on Court 2. This is now Lithen’s fifth ranked singles victory of the season, the most he’s tallied in a single season while playing for Ole Miss.
Nikola Slavic was not far behind Lithen with a ranked singles win of his own, as the defending ITA All-American fought through three sets of action against No. 41 Noah Schachter en route to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win in No. 1 singles. Slavic currently leads the Rebels in ranked singles wins on the year, earning what was ranked win No. 6 of the 2022-23 season.
With the score level at 3-3, the match between the Rebels and the Aggies came down to the final set on Court 3, which featured Ole Miss men’s tennis senior Simon Junk. Junk, who had been honored just a few hours earlier for the team’s Senior Day, was looking to clinch his final match at Palmer/Salloum.
The Marpingen, Germany, native was in a roller coaster of a match already against No. 121 ranked Pierce Rollins, dropping his first set before rebounding with a 6-2 win in set two. This set the senior up with one final set to cap off the Rebel upset over the Aggies.
In front of his Ole Miss team and a plethora of Ole Miss fans, Junk delivered in dramatic fashion, defeating Rollins 6-4 in the third set to clinch the Rebel victory one last time in Oxford. The win marks Junk’s first ranked singles win of the season, as well as just the third ranked singles win of his five-year playing career with the Rebels.
“This was a special one for me today,” Junk said. “Leading up to everything I obviously got a lot of text messages yesterday and people who reached out to me, and there’s just been a lot of emotions involved over the last couple of days. This just feels extra special for me today.”
“I appreciate the guys fighting so hard. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them today. All of the guys battling, whether they won or lost, we all just kept fighting. To even be in the position to clinch today was all thanks to them. It was a special day for me for sure.”
The Rebels now hit the road for their final two matches of the season, with the team first heading to Knoxville to take on Tennessee (xxx) on April 14. Ole Miss will then close out their regular season on Sunday, April 16, as the Rebels take on Georgia.
Ole Miss 4, Texas A&M 3
No. 40 Schachter/Hilderbrand (A&M) def. No. 90 John Hallquist Lithen/Simon Junk (OM) 6-3
Lukas Engelhardt/Isac Strömberg (OM) def. Rollins/Taylor (A&M) 7-6(4)
Nikola Slavic/Noah Schlagenhauf (OM) def. Roddick/Perego (A&M) 6-2
Order of finish: 1, 3, 2
No. 60 Nikola Slavic (OM) def. No. 41 Noah Schachter (A&M) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
John Hallquist Lithen (OM) def. No. 62 Raphael Perot (A&M) 6-3, 7-6(2)
Simon Junk (OM) def. No. 121 Pierce Rollins (A&M) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Giulio Perego (A&M) def. Lukas Engelhardt (OM) 6-2, 6-1
Guido Marson (A&M) def. Noah Schlagenhauf (OM) 6-1, 6-1
No. 110 Trey Hilderbrand (A&M) def. Isac Strömberg (OM) 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
Order of finish: 4, 5, 6, 2, 1, 3
Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics