Thursday, March 29, 2007

SEC West Tennis Race Heats up as Rebels Host LSU

OXFORD, Miss. – The SEC Western Division race heats up this weekend on the hardcourts, as the No. 10 nationally ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team battles No.13 LSU and Arkansas seeking to remain atop the West standings and keep pace in the overall race.

The Rebels and Tigers will face off Friday at 2 p.m. at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center, a place that has been good to Ole Miss as of late. The Rebels have won 42 of their last 43 regular season home matches and are 10-0 at home this season.

The first 100 fans to Friday’s match will receive a free Rebel Tennis t-shirt compliments of the Ink Spot.

“LSU is a very good team, especially in doubles,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “They have a recent win over Illinois (No. 7), and they are playing well. One of our goals for the season is to capture the SEC West for the sixth year in a row. We need a big crowd to come out and help us take down the Tigers.”

Ole Miss improved to 16-2 overall, 5-1 in the SEC and gained sole possession of the SEC Western Division with a 5-2 win over Vanderbilt and a 4-0 shutout of Kentucky this past weekend.

LSU comes into the weekend with a 12-3 overall record, 4-2 in the SEC. As a result of their 4-3 loss to Florida in their last match, the Tigers trail Ole Miss by one in the Western Division standings. In that match to Florida, LSU lost the doubles point for only the third time all season. They boast two of the top doubles tandems in the nation. James Cluskey and Ken Skupski are ranked No. 14 in the nation and the Tigers’ No. 2 team of Danny Bryan and Colt Gaston are ranked No. 5. Skupski is ranked No. 24 in singles and owns an 8-6 record at No. 1.

Ole Miss has won five of the last six meetings. The two teams have had some epic battles in recent years. Of the last six meetings, five have been decided by one point. Ole Miss had won five in a row until the Tigers edged the Rebels 4-3 last year in Baton Rouge.

Sunday, Arkansas comes to town for a 1 p.m. match on “Senior Day.” The Rebels will honor seniors Eric Claesson and Fredrik Aarum, and the first 100 fans will receive a free coca-cola bucket hat.

After having to replace six of its top eight from a year ago, Arkansas heads into the weekend at just 7-15 overall and 0-6 in the SEC. They are coming off a tough 4-3 loss at South Carolina. The Razorbacks are playing their 16th match away from home. They are 4-12 on the road this season. Sophomore Blake Strode leads Arkansas, as he is ranked No. 95 in singles and teams with Colin Mascall for a No. 27 doubles ranking.

The Rebels have won 17 straight against Arkansas, including two wins last year. Ole Miss defeated the Razorbacks 4-3 in Fayetteville during the regular season and then again in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament, 4-0. The last time the Razorbacks beat the Rebels (1988), they were members of the Southwest Conference.

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