'Bama Tennis Ready for Showdown at No. 8 Ole Miss, Miss. State


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dan Buikema

TUSCALOOSA – After securing a split on the opening weekend of SEC play last week, Alabama Tennis will get into division play this weekend as it travels to battle No. 8 Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

The Crimson Tide (4-4, 1-1 SEC) enters this weekend deadlocked with Ole Miss atop the SEC’s Western Division and could take sole possession of first with a pair of wins. Both teams split last weekend. Alabama knocked off Vanderbilt last Friday night before losing a close match to Kentucky, 4-3, on Sunday.

Tide junior Joseph Jung finally had his 15-match winning streak snapped last Friday, but sophomore Billy Mertz and freshman Dan Buikema helped pick up the slack. Mertz and Buikema each won twice on the weekend, including key wins on Friday to help clinch a come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt. Mertz and Buikema had played well leading up to last week, but according to head coach Billy Pate, turned in their best performances of the season.

“Billy and Dan battled,” Pate said. “I thought Dan played better than he’s played since the fall. We’ve been talking about getting better support around Joe (Jung) and I feel like we’re starting to get that now.”

Not only has Alabama begun to receive better production in its singles line-up, but the Tide looked better in doubles last week than it has all year. ‘Bama swept the doubles point from Kentucky and narrowly missed taking it from Vanderbilt. Mertz and Javier Bes have really sparked the team in doubles. They were 2-0 last weekend and are now 5-1 together this season.

Fans will be able to keep up with all the action this weekend by visiting www.rolltide.com.