NCAA 2nd Round Preview: UCLA vs. Ole Miss

As promised, here is my nightly preview of tomorrow’s gigantic match–it’s of course the biggest match of the year. It’s win or go home, baby, and I don’t want to go home! Anyway, I’m back from another great team dinner full of smiles, laughs, and a very full stomach. Comes with the territory, I guess.

But I digress–tomorrow we face the #28th ranked Ole Miss Rebels out of the SEC conference. The winner gets a coveted spot in tennis’ equivalent Sweet 16 in Palo Alto, California. It is going to be a tough match tomorrow, so here is my rundown of tomorrow’s matchup:

OPPONENT: Mississippi (Nickname: Ole Miss)

CONFERENCE/RECORD: Southeastern Conference (SEC), 13-9 (5-6)

RANKING: #28

HEAD-TO-HEAD: UCLA is 4-1 all-time against Ole Miss, with their most recent meeting two years ago in the NCAA Championship Quarterfinals in College Station, Texas. In that match, then-Sophomore Nick Meister clinched the match with an epic third set win against now-#1 player Junior Marcel Theimann. In 2009, Ole Miss was one of the top ranked teams in the country and retain three players–including Theimann, Senior Tucker Vorster, and Senior Kalle Norberg–from that Elite Eight squad that pushed us to the brink. This is a team we are fairly familiar (I am too, it was a crazy match in ’09) with although many of their top players from that team are no longer on this current team.

KEY WINS: at #8 Florida, vs. #36 Tulsa (Loss 4-3 vs. #3 Tennessee, Loss 4-3 vs. #6 Georgia)

SCOUTING REPORT: To be frank, this is a really, really good team that as Coach Martin said earlier today, probably is ranked too low considering how talented their lineup is. Although their overall record and their conference record is not too impressive, they play in arguably the best conference in college tennis this year–the SEC. The SEC has four teams in the top 10: Tennessee (#3), Georgia (#6), Florida (#8), and Kentucky (#10). Therefore, they are battle-tested and have literally played a bunch of matches against the top teams in the country. They are led by the aforementioned #36th-ranked Marcel Thiemann and #52nd-ranked Tucker Vorster. Both are having fine seasons and obviously, their ranking indicates how strong the top of Ole Miss’ lineup is. In addition, one of their top players, Senior Kalle Norberg, has been out most of the year with a foot injury–and still are ranked #28th in the country. He will definitely play tomorrow which will be a giant boost to their lineup. (You can read about this HERE.)

PREDICTION: As I alluded to before, this is a team that is coming to LATC without feeling intimated because of the teams they have already faced this year. And because of that, I think we really need to come out extra-fired up; I know I always say that, but tomorrow I really mean it. From their statements (read HERE), they  feel like they can beat us and we need to set the tone early and let them know that it is not going to happen–not now and not in our house. Therefore, we need to come out and win the doubles point; from looking at some of their lower-ranked losses (Auburn, Mississippi State, and most recently to Tennessee in the SEC Championships), they also lost the doubles point. Therefore, it would be a giant boost for us. Although they are strong up top (and we are too), we feel we have the depth needed to hopefully win this match and guys like Holden and Max need to step up tomorrow like they both did so gigantically today. I know they will and I know everyone will!

Yet, with all that being said, this is going to be a war; folks, this Ole Miss team is as good as it gets and will really test us tomorrow. If we don’t come to play, we won’t be going to Palo Alto and this team thinks and knows that they can take our place. The last time we played in 2009 was probably the most intense and dramatic match of my college career (one of them, at least), and tomorrow could be the same. Hopefully, it won’t be, but be prepared Bruin fans for a battle.

We need your support so please come on out at 3pm to support the blue and gold. LET’S GO BRUINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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