Bird and Shark -- the dynamic duo
Ole Miss' Scholtz, Lutjen play together for last time in semis
URBANA, Ill. -- Members of college athletics teams normally share a very special bond, but few have achieved the dynamic that Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen of Ole Miss have formed.
Nicknamed “Team Birdshark”, the duo has enjoyed their time on and off the court together.
“Since I came to school [at Ole Miss], we played doubles together. We lived in the dorms together and then we moved off campus together…we’ve always been together. We are just good friends and we goof off around each other,” Scholtz, a sophomore, said.
|@JonasLutjen: "Unlucky end in the singles tournament! but that's behind. Lets see how far the Bird-Shark train can roll! @thashark6"|
|@thashark6: "Through to the NCAA elite 8 with birdman @JonasLutjen #teambirdshark"|
|@JonasLutjen: "Sharky and I having fun in our match after I almost got killed because of his 5mph serve #birdshark #ouch @thashark6 pic.twitter.com/LMFwGB97fH"|
|@thashark6: "Through to the 2013 NCAA final with my partner @JonasLutjen aka Birdman. #final4 #teambirdshark @OleMissMTennis pic.twitter.com/EkMBgs1Vgk"|
|@JonasLutjen: "Birdsharks ride comes to an end in the semis.Thanks everyone for the great support! REBS ALL DAY EVERY DAY! #birdshark #flyhigh @thashark6"|
While the origin of “Birdshark” started out as a modest joke on the court, it snowballed into a team mantra.
“My nickname is Shark, and his nickname is Bird, so we just formed team Birdshark. It just sort of happened,” Scholtz said.
On the court, Scholtz and Lutjen have become a force to be reckoned with. Going into the NCAA tournament, they were ranked No. 3 in doubles and both were in the top 20 in singles.
“We are just trying to have fun here. I think it’s one of the reasons we play so well because we have fun on and off the court,” Scholtz said.
His partner agreed with his sentiment. “It’s our last college tournament together. I’m a senior, so we are here to have fun,” Lutjen said.
Even with the fun on the court, Scholtz and Lutjen know when to get serious. Scholtz is constantly telling Lutjen the little techniques he needs to refine and he listens when Lutjen tells him to step up.
“We know what each other’s weaknesses are. So when are on the court we try to remind each other of things like that. [Lutjen] knows that I become chill and laid back and on the court you’re not supposed to be like that,” Scholtz said.
Lutjen agreed. “I just tell him to be a shark out there. Sometimes he is more like a whale.”
Both players were recruited from abroad to play for the Rebs. Lutjen hails from Germany and Scholtz grew up in South Africa.
“I had a few really good talks with the coaches and I had a few really good friends who went to Ole Miss. Just the whole college thing was a good start. I really liked what I heard about [college tennis]. It’s worked out great so far,” Lutjen said.
The duo drew the third seed coming into the NCAA doubles championship and made it to the semifinals, where they ran into trouble against Texas’ Chris Camillone and David Holiner in the first set and experienced a rain delay between the second and third sets.
Despite the cheers of ‘Here we go, Birdshark!’ from the Ole Miss fans, the duo competed together for the last time, falling 2-6, 7-5, 3-6 to the Longhorns.
“Whenever you get to the [semifinals], it’s anyone’s tournament. We are just went in and did our best and kept having fun,” Scholtz said.
Despite the fact that that Lutjen graduated and will not return to Ole Miss, Bird and Shark clearly made a stamp on the Ole Miss team.
“Team Birdshark will be over after this year, but we are going to end on a good note,” Scholtz said, earning a slap on the back from Lutjen.