Mississippi 4, Auburn 1

May 15, 2005

OXFORD, Miss. Ole Miss mens tennis senior Catalin Gard vowed after last years disappointing second round loss to Vanderbilt in the NCAA Championships, to return for his senior season and lead the Rebels back to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. He did just that here Sunday, winning both his doubles and singles matches to power the Rebels to a 4-1 win over Auburn in the second round of the 2005 NCAA Championships in front of a packed house at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.

The Rebels (23-3) advance to the Sweet Sixteen in College Station, Texas to face the 14th seed, Texas Tech, a 4-1 winner over Wake Forest in the second round. This marks the 10th time for the Rebels to reach the round of 16. Auburn ends their season at 13-10.

This was a total team effort, head coach Billy Chadwick said. We were fighting at every position, and we were able to take advantage of the home crowd. They didnt let up any during the match, and thats the difference in us moving on. Theyve been great the entire year, and they were spectacular today.

Ole Miss got the crucial doubles point to take a 1-0 lead. Catalin Gard and Eric Claesson, ranked No. 14 in the nation, defeated the 16th ranked team of Gabor Zolton Pelva and Alex Schweizer 8-4 at No.1 doubles. Ole Miss was up 7-4 at No. 2 doubles, but Auburn would rally to force a tiebreaker. That match would not finish as the Reb freshmen duo of Bram ten Berge and Jakob Klaeson finished off Auburns Nick Lane and Brett Hunter 9-7 at No. 3 doubles to clinch the point.

Gard, playing in his last match at the tennis center went out in style. He dominated Pelva 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 singles to make it 2-0 Ole Miss and improve to 6-0 lifetime against Pelva, who reached the 2004 NCAA Singles Semifinals. Gard, in two years playing on court one at the tennis center, went 16-0.

Cat put on a show, Chadwick said. He played a great touch shot in doubles that was huge in enabling us to get the first point and pump the crowd up. Then he played lights out in singles. He played a very tough opponent who is outstanding.

I am very happy that I could win today, Gard said. It was my last match at the here and I am very sad. I had a great time here for four years. I want to thank everyone for coming to the matches and supporting Ole Miss tennis. We are very happy that we could advance one more round to the Sweet Sixteen.

Auburn got their only point of the day when Tom George defeated Rebel Fredrik Aarum 6-2, 6-2 on court five.

The Rebels are headed to the Sweet Sixteen in large part due to the play of their three freshmen. Ten Berge and Klaeson got the doubles point for Ole Miss. In singles, it was freshman Erling Tveits turn to shine. He downed AUs Lane 6-3, 6-3 at No. 3 singles to put the Rebels within one match of clinching with the three remaining matches all in third sets. Tveit won both his matches this weekend to improve to 19-2 in dual matches, 15-2 at No. 3 singles.

Ole Miss won the first set on court two, but lost the first sets on courts four and six. On court four, Junior Juan Pablo Di Cesare, playing in front of his family (who made the trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina) got off to a good start in the second set and went on to win it 6-3, after dropping the first set 6-3.

Karim Alayli, the Rebs other senior, fell behind a set on court six, but rallied to win the second 6-3. On court two, Claesson grabbed his opening set (6-3) against the Tigers Schweizer, but lost the second, 6-3.

Courts two and four would not be necessary, as Di Cesare went up 4-1 in the third and never looked back on his way to a 6-2 win to clinch the Rebels berth in the final 16. Di Cesare improved to 19-3 in dual matches and 9-1 in three-setters.

Juan hasnt lost much this year as you see by his record, Chadwick said. A lot of his matches have been three-set matches. I had confidence in him. I knew he needed to get off to a good start in the second set, because if you let the big guy from Auburn get a good start, hes a frontrunner. Pablo made some great adjustments. He started getting his first serve in, and that was the difference in the match. Whenever he got his first serve in, he probably won 75 percent of the points.

I didnt play very well at the beginning, Di Cesare said. I saw the crowd, and I realized I wasnt putting on a good show and tried to play harder. At the beginning I was a little nervous and I was rushing too much. He (Lathouwers) plays good when you hit it right back to him, so I started staying back and trying to push the ball up high. It worked.

When Di Cesare clinched, Alayli was all even at 4 in the deciding set, and Claesson was behind 0-2 in the third.

The Rebels improved to 10-2 in NCAA competition at home. They have now won 17 in a row against Auburn, including twice in the last three postseasons. Ole Miss also beat the Tigers (4-0) in the 2003 NCAA Regional final in Oxford.

The times for the Sweet Sixteen will be announced Monday.

Second round
#3 Ole Miss 4, Auburn 1

#1 Gard/Claesson (OM) def. Pelva/Schweizer (AU) 8-4
#2 Tveit/Aarum (OM) vs. Lathouwers/George (AU) 8-8
#3 ten Berge/Klaeson (OM) def. Lane/Hunter (AU) 9-7

#1 Catalin Gard (OM) def. Gabor Zolton Pelva (AU) 6-1, 6-2
#2 Eric Claesson (OM) vs. Alex Schweizer (AU) 6-3, 3-6, 0-2
#3 Erling Tveit (OM) def. Nick Lane (AU) 6-3, 6-3
#4 Juan Pablo Di Cesare (OM) def. Robert Lathouwers (AU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
#5 Tom George (AU) def. Fredrik Aarum (OM) 6-2, 6-2
#6 Karim Alayli (OM) vs. Brett Hunter (AU) 2-6, 6-3, 4-4

-- Courtesy Mississippi