It’s about time to declare Ole Miss a tennis school again.
Over the weekend, the Rebelnettersharks joined Texas, UCLA, and North Carolina as the only schools to have their men’s and women’s team reach the Sweet Sixteen in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Both teams advanced past the regionals for the first time since 1999 when the women’s team made it to the Elite Eight and the men’s to the Final Four.
In Friday’s match, the 5th-overall seed Rebs only dropped four total games between the pair of doubles victories and three singles matches.
On Saturday, however, things didn’t come quite so easy. The Shockers jumped out to a quick lead as the No. 7 ranked doubles team of Arianne Hartono and Alexa Bortles dropped a tough 7-5 deciding set for the doubles point. With a couple of wins at either end of the lineup, the teams split courts three and four before Sabina Machalova came back from dropping the first set to win the final 7-5 and clinch the match.
They now move on to face a UCLA team the Rebels previously beat 4-3 back in the ITA Indoors in February. They dropped the doubles point that day as well, but being forced to win four of six singles courts is always a tall task.
24 hours later and 2,150 miles away, the men’s team pulled off perhaps the biggest upset in their program’s history. Not the biggest win since the Rebels have played for the national title and been to four Final Fours, but after a season full of injuries to the top of the lineup, a win that could propel Toby Hanson’s team back to the glory years of Billy Chadwick.
The Rebels entered the Palo Alto Regional as the No. 3 seed, not overall but in their own regional. After a 4-3 victory against Duke that finished with a three set victory for Grey Hamilton, it was all hands on deck against Stanford. The Cardinal were unbeaten at home and seeded 4th in the country. The groundwork was laid in doubles with a pair of 7-5 victories on courts one and three.
Afterwards, all they had to do was split the singles match ups with the Pac-12 runners up. Easier said than done as the Cardinal picked up three quick straight set wins to go take a 3-2 lead before Tim Sandkaulen pushed it to 3-3. In a rarity for a 3-3 tennis match, all five singles matches to finish had done so in straight sets. This meant Ole Miss chances came down to the final court and Finn Reynolds.
Finn, who was born to play for a mascot of the Landsharks, was down a set and had four match points in a row against him in a second set tiebreaker. He fought off each one and stormed back to win 8-6. From there the route was on and after a couple final set breaks of serve, Reynolds threw up the landshark, and a dab, as his teammates swarmed him at the service line.
Three consecutive postseason trips to California finally yielded a winner for the Rebs, and now they’ll face a Florida team they lost handily to earlier this season. But, after beating a top-five team in their place, I wouldn’t put anything past these guys.
The women’s team plays at 6 p.m. Thursday, and the men at 6 p.m. Friday, this time on the same courts. Go get that bag, fam.