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The Ole Miss women's tennis team continues to rise in the ITA National Rankings, from No. 32 to No. 26 after a sweep of Arkansas and LSU last week. The Rebels have won three straight matches and five of their last seven, with their only losses to two top-10 teams in Georgia and Vanderbilt, and have risen 23 spots in the rankings during that span.

"The last few weeks, starting with the Tennessee match, we have earned that ranking with a lot of hard work in practice and these matches," head coach Mark Beyers said. "We have put ourselves in that position and earned that ranking, so now we have to take it to the next level. All of a sudden, the potential to host is only a couple of big wins away, and we have those opportunities still ahead of us, so we're looking forward to that."

Ole Miss, now 10-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC, has five league matches remaining starting with intra-state rival Mississippi State on Sunday in Starkville. The Rebels carry a 24-match win streak in the series into the match against what Beyers called probably Mississippi State's best team since 2005.

"This match is just this match," Beyers said. "Whatever happened the last few years doesn't really matter. It doesn't enter into our minds. We have to beat Mississippi State this Sunday, and that's going to be a tough assignment. That's the only thing that's on my mind.

"Our main objective is to take care of this match for this season and work toward a winning record in the SEC. As far as the overall record is concerned, try to get another win and position ourselves even higher in the rankings and potentially get to a point that with one big win, whether that be Texas A&M or Florida later in the year, we get the opportunity to potentially host. All of a sudden, we're not that far away from that. That's really the main objective."

WT Sweeps JSU Ahead Of ITA Kickoff


The Ole Miss women's tennis team, ranked No. 35 in the nation, swept Jackson State 7-0 Wednesday in its home opener at the Gillom Sports Center.  The Rebels won every set in the match, dropping just two games in doubles play and 13 games in singles play.

"We had good preparation this weekend in the Michigan Invitational," head coach Mark Beyers said. "We did what we needed to do and played pretty well at some spots. Most of all, no one got hurt, and everybody is better than they were last week. That's what we need in order to be successful this weekend."

Ole Miss continues play at this weekend's ITA Kickoff in Tuscaloosa, Ala., which serves as the qualifier for the National Team Indoor Championships. The Rebels will play No. 34 Oklahoma on Saturday (2 p.m.) and then either No. 12 Alabama or No. 41 William & Mary on Sunday.

"It's a huge match against Oklahoma," Beyers said. "They have a good team with three seniors in their starting lineup. It's going to be a tough assignment.  We're looking forward to getting to know our team better and see where we are as far as competing against NCAA Tournament-quality teams. We'll see after that. If we can get past Oklahoma, hopefully we get a shot at the winner of Alabama and William & Mary and see if we can get back to Charlottesville, Va. to the National Indoors."

Rebel Preview: Michigan Invitational

7626623.jpegThree things from Ole Miss women's tennis head coach Mark Beyers, previewing the 2014 season and the Rebels' first tournament, the Michigan Invitational, which starts Saturday:

1. Rebels Return Top Five Players

Last season, the Ole Miss women's tennis team ended with a 16-14 record and a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to No. 15-ranked Duke. This season, the Rebels return their top five players, led by the team's lone senior, Caroline Rohde-Moe. 

"A lot of these kids gained a lot of experience and we got better," Beyers said. "Last year, we were a little too inconsistent to really reach all of our goals, but hopefully from the experience they gained from last year, they will be able to apply that this year. We have basically the entire starting lineup from last year coming back and then you add Zalina (Khairudinova) to the mix, so hopefully that will be a recipe for success.

2. Balance Throughout The Lineup

The Rebels begin the spring season ranked No. 35 in the nation, which is ninth among Southeastern Conference teams. Three players -- Mai El Kamash (No. 57), Rohde-Moe (No. 87) and Julia Jones (No. 90) -- are ranked in the top 100 in singles, and Rohde-Moe combines with Marija Milutinovic for the nation's No. 19 doubles team.

"We had different players at difference times play well in the fall," Beyers said. "Julia Jones ended up winning the Little Rock Invitation, which was a great win for her. Marija Milutinovic had a tough year with some injuries, and she really turned things around this fall. Mai El Kamash had some great individual wins, and she's currently our highest-ranked player. Different people stepped up at different times. It shows that we have a lot of depth and experience, and that creates a lot of excitement for us as coaches to see how that is going to work out."

3. Getting Started, Prepping For ITA Kickoff Weekend

Ole Miss kicks off the spring season this weekend at the Michigan Invitational (Jan. 18-20), where it will play singles and doubles matches against players from No. 11 Michigan, No. 20 Georgia Tech and No. 59 South Florida. Each team will play three doubles and three singles rounds, with points allocated to each winning player or team according to the flight position.

"It's getting back into playing team matches," Beyers said. "In the fall, it's all individual stuff, and even though it's a format where it doesn't count from a team national ranking standpoint, it's still a team format, and so to get used to having everyone playing at the same time. It's also getting ready for Jackson State and then the ITA Kickoff Weekend."

After their first home match of the season, Jan. 22 against Jackson State, the Rebels will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the ITA Kickoff Weekend (Jan. 25-26). 

Ole Miss opens the ITA Kickoff Weekend against No. 34 Oklahoma and will then play either No. 12 Alabama or No. 40 William & Mary. The winner advances to the ITA National Team Indoor (Feb. 7-10) in Charlottesville, Va.

"The good thing is, you have four good teams there, four teams that finished in the RPI Top 50, so you're guaranteed two good matches," Beyers said. "We want to go 2-0 and quality for the National Indoors in Virginia, but regardless, we're going to get two good matches. Even if you go 1-1, it's going to help from a national ranking standpoint and help you later down the road when it comes to NCAA Tournament time."


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