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Rebels clinch thriller over LSU, advance in SEC tourney

309 days ago
Ole Miss Athletics
Photo: Ole Miss Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. - Ole Miss men's tennis fought through a difficult clash with LSU in the opening round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday, with the Rebels punching their ticket to the SEC Quarterfinals with a 4-3 victory over the Tigers.

The Rebels (17-8, 6-6 SEC) were down early after dropping the match's doubles point to the Tigers (14-10, 4-8 SEC), but clutch wins in singles and a clinching blow from senior Simon Junk helped send the Rebels through to the SEC Quarterfinals for just the second time in five seasons.

"We knew that it was going to be a tough match today against LSU," head coach Toby Hansson said. "After a slow start in doubles, we were able to find a way to get the win. Once again Simon came up clutch for us in the deciding match."

Ole Miss found itself down early to the Tigers, with quick doubles victories on Court 1 and Court 2 putting LSU up 1-0 heading into singles play. The Tigers kept their momentum going on Court 1 right into singles, as Nikola Slavic dropped his match 7-5, 6-0 to give the Rebels a 2-0 deficit.

Freshman Isac Strömberg wouldn't let that last for long, however, as the Stockholm, Sweden, native came up big for the team in his first collegiate postseason match. Strömberg would make quick work of his opponent in No. 6 singles, claiming a 6-3, 6-4 straight-set victory to cut the Tiger lead down to one.

John Hallquist Lithen kept the team's foot on the gas, with Lithen fighting through Stefan Latinovic to earn a 7-5, 6-3 win of his own on Court 2. With the pivotal win from the junior, the Rebels now returned to level pegging with the Tigers with the remaining three matches heading to third sets.

The Rebels returned to their backfoot following a three-set victory for LSU on Court 4, and the Rebels now looked to one of their youngest and one of their oldest players to sweep out the remaining two matches in order to clinch the opening round victory.

First, freshman Noah Schlagenhauf drew the Rebels back to even with the Tigers, battling through a back-and-forth match to win in No. 5 singles by a score of 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. He, like fellow freshman Isac Strömberg, earned a key victory in his first taste of postseason play to put the fate of the Rebels' tournament on a safe pair of shoulders.

Fifth-year senior Simon Junk has been all too familiar with the pressure of closing out matches for the Rebels, having clinched the team's 4-3 ranked win against Texas A&M in what may have likely been his final match at Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center. The Marpingen, Germany, native now faced No. 123 ranked Chen Dong in the third set, with a trip to the SEC Quarterfinals on the line.

Once again proving his clutch factor for the Rebel squad, Junk delivered with all eyes on him, as the senior fought to earn a 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 victory and push the Rebels into the SEC Quarterfinals. This now marks Junk's second ranked singles victory of the 2022-23 season, as well as just his fourth career ranked singles win with the Rebels.

"Another great day to be a Rebel," Junk said. "Very proud of how we once again fought until the very end. We had kind of a slow start to the match, but we were able to pick it up and came out on top today."

"Glad that we get another chance to make it better from the beginning tomorrow!"

Up Next

Ole Miss now turns its attention to the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers (20-6, 10-2), as the Rebels are set to square off in their SEC Quarterfinal matchup with the Vols at 12 p.m. CT tomorrow at Yarbrough Tennis Center in Auburn, Alabama.

Ole Miss 4, LSU 3

No. 50 Hohmann/Watson (LSU) def. John Hallquist Lithen/Simon Junk (OM) 6-3
Latinovic/Hotard (LSU) def. Lukas Engelhardt/Isac Strömberg (OM) 6-4
Nikola Slavic/Noah Schlagenhauf (OM) vs. Dong/Stoupe (LSU) 4-3 unfinished

Order of finish: 2, 1

No. 75 Ronald Hohmann (LSU) def. No. 67 Nikola Slavic (OM) 7-5, 6-0
John Hallquist Lithen (OM) def. Stefan Latinovic (LSU) 7-5, 6-3
Simon Junk (OM) def. No. 123 Chen Dong (LSU) (3)6-7, 6-3, 7-5
Welsh Hotard (LSU) def. Lukas Engelhardt (OM) 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
Noah Schlagenhauf (OM) def. George Stoupe (LSU) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Isac Strömberg (OM) def. Julien Penzlin (LSU) 6-3, 6-4

Order of finish: 1, 6, 2, 4, 5, 3