Mississippi 4, Georgia 2

May 22, 2005

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Rebel freshman Bram ten Berge rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the third set against Georgia sophomore Ricardo Gonzalez, to clinch a 4-2 victory for the No. 3 seeded Ole Miss men's tennis team against the sixth-seeded Bulldogs, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Team Championships here Sunday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The Rebels advanced to the Final Four where they will face UCLA, a 4-1 winner over Virginia, Monday at 3 p.m.

Ole Miss tied the 1997 team for most wins in a season with a 25-3 record and will be making its fourth Final Four appearance, having also reached the semis in 1995, 1997 and 1999. Georgia ends its season at 20-7.

"It was a very tough SEC battle," head coach Billy Chadwick said. "We played these guys before, and they jumped us early in doubles and beat us badly. Our goal was to go out and try to get the doubles point. We were able to do that, and then find three singles matches along the way. We were fighting at every position."

Ole Miss took the all-important doubles point in thrilling fashion. Ten Berge teamed up with fellow freshman Jakob Klaeson for an 8-4 win against Georgia's Gonzalez and Matic Omerzel at No. 3. Georgia's No. 1 ranked duo of John Isner and Antonio Ruiz claimed the top spot 8-4.

The No. 2 doubles match between OM's Fredrik Aarum and Erling Tveit and Georgia's Strahinja Bobusic and Colin Purcell went back and forth. At 7-8, Aarum held serve to force a tiebreaker. Georgia led 3-1 in the breaker, but Ole Miss would tie it up and go ahead 5-3. Georgia held their serve for 5-4 and then Tveit served out the next two points to clinch it, 9-8(4).

"Fredrik gets the game ball," Chadwick said. "He had to serve at 7-8, and throughout that game and in the tiebreaker, he made 10 straight first serves. That was the difference in the match."

Ole Miss improved to 20-0 this season and 63-3 since 2002 when winning the doubles point.

Georgia pulled even when Purcell handed OM's Klaeson a 6-1, 6-2 loss at No. 4 singles.

Ole Miss regained the lead with Tveit's straight set win at No. 2 singles. Tveit, playing No. 2 singles for the first time this season, defeated Georgia's 71st-ranked Ruiz 6-4, 6-2. Tveit has now won five in a row and improves to 21-2 in dual matches.

Senior Karim Alayli got the call to play singles, and he came through, topping UGA's, Bobusic, 6-4, 6-4, to put the Rebels within one of advancing to the semifinals. Alayli improved to 7-1 at No. 6 singles.

Georgia got to within 3-2 as 21st-ranked Isner defeated Rebel senior Catalin Gard, ranked No. 4 in the nation, 7-6(4), 7-5 at No. 1 singles. It was just Gard's fourth loss at No. 1 singles this year and snapped a nine-match winning streak.

Sunday's win marked just the third time the Rebels have won when Gard lost at No.1 singles.

Both the remaining courts, three and five, split sets. At three, junior Juan Pablo Di Cesare, playing at No. 3 singles for the first time, dropped his first set to Georgia's Omerzel, 6-4, but came back to win the second 6-4. The two were on serve when the match was clinched.

On five, ten Berge blanked Bulldog sophomore Gonzalez, 6-0 in the first set, but the Bulldog picked it up a notch to win the second 6-2. Gonzalez raced out to a 5-1 lead in the third set, before seeing ten Berge reel off five straight games to go up 6-5. Ten Berge would need to hold serve to avoid a third-set tiebreaker, with court three locked in a tight battle in the third set. Ten Berge faced a break point. He held Gonzalez off and on match point, watched as Gonzalez' return of serve sailed into the net clinching the 4-2 victory. Gonzalez came in with a 14-4 dual match record, while ten Berge was playing in just his second singles match since March 13, due to injury.

"Saturday, I played for the first time in nearly two and a half months after being injured. I lost my match, and I didn't feel comfortable. Today, I played pretty solid in the first set, and I was feeling very comfortable. From that point on, he started hitting a lot more balls in. I was struggling to get my serve in. He was passing me and coming in a lot. He was just playing well.

"At 5-1 in the third, coach came up to me and told me that if I could get the next game and break him once, I would win, because he had lost some close matches where he was in a position to clinch for the Bulldogs. I was nervous to serve it out after having not played in a while, but we did it, and I am so happy. This was a great team effort."

The Rebels will be looking to advance to their second NCAA Final. It was exactly 10 years ago (1995) that Ole Miss reached the championship match, defeating Southern Cal, Pepperdine and Georgia, before falling to Stanford in the final.

Ole Miss and UCLA have only met once before in the NCAA Championships, with the Bruins taking a 6-0 win in the 1992 round of 16. In their last meeting, UCLA escaped with a 4-3 win in the 2004 National Team Indoor semifinals.

"For us to beat two quality opponents like we have, we are very happy," Chadwick said. "Going into this, we felt UCLA was the most talented team, possibly as talented as Baylor. They haven't been quite as consistent as Baylor, because Baylor is mentally tough. UCLA appears to be putting it together at the right time. They beat a very good Virginia team. I am not surprised that UCLA is where they are, and it's going to be a very good match Monday."

#1 Isner/Ruiz (UGA) def. Gard/Claesson (OM) 8-4
#2 Tveit/Aarum (OM) def. Bobusic/Purcell (UGA) 9-8(4)
#3 Klaeson/ten Berge (OM) def. Gonzalez/Omerzel (UGA) 8-4

#1 John Isner (UGA) def. Catalin Gard (OM) 7-6(4), 7-5
#2 Erling Tveit (OM) def. Antonio Ruiz (UGA) 6-4, 6-2
#3 Juan Pablo Di Cesare (OM) vs. Matic Omerzel (UGA) DNF
#4 Collin Purcell (UGA) def. Jakob Klaeson (OM) 6-1, 6-2 #5 Bram ten Berge (OM) def. Ricardo Gonzalez (UGA) 6-0, 2-6, 7-5
#6 Karim Alayli (OM) def. Strahinja Bobusic (UGA) 6-4, 6-4

-- Courtesy Mississippi