This is what they compete for all year.
On the biggest stage college tennis has to offer, the Binghamton University men’s tennis team is set to take on the University of Mississippi in the first round of the NCAA Championship on May 13. The hosting Rebels are ranked No. 13 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings.
The Bearcats (15-11) gathered in the TAU Room of the Events Center on Tuesday to watch the online unveiling of the 64-team national tournament.
Binghamton beat the University of Maryland, Baltimore County last weekend to earn its fifth consecutive America East Championship title and automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. It was the Bearcats’ eighth America East title in the last 10 years.
With six consecutive wins to end their regular season and two wins in America East tournament play, the Bearcats are headed into their matchup with a lot of momentum.
Ole Miss (13-8), meanwhile, advanced to the SEC seminfinals with conference tournament wins over University of Arkansas and University of Florida. They’ve reached the NCAA Championship 18 of the last 19 years.
“They’re a very good team,” Binghamton head coach Adam Cohen said. “They have two doubles teams ranked in the top 20. They both made it into the individual doubles tournament. And [they have] three singles players, if not four, ranked inside the top 100. So they will be tough competition for our guys.”
Cohen said that Binghamton’s challenging regular season schedule, which included three nationally ranked opponents, has helped to prepare the squad for the level of play it’s set to face next weekend.
“I think it’s helpful,” Cohen said. “Unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of these matches to ranked teams last year. Some close, some not so close. I just think playing a good schedule is beneficial for the development of our players. So at least we’ve played teams that are at similar levels to the teams we’ll face in the tournament. I think our guys know that if we play hard and smart and compete that we’re going to make it a competitive match.”
Binghamton senior Alexandre Haggai, the Most Outstanding Player at the conference championships, will anchor the Bearcats lineup from No. 1 singles. Juniors Ruben Devos and Bastian Bornkessel comprise Binghamton’s top doubles tandem. Freshmen Ismael Dinia (No. 3), Robin Lesage (No. 4), Florian van Kann (No. 6) and sophomore Ruben Haggai (No. 5) will round out Binghamton’s lineup.
“We’re certainly going to be playing the best team we’ve faced all year in Mississippi and they’re a confident group as well,” Cohen said. “We just have to go down there and not be intimidated by their facilities or the number in front of their name. We just need to play smart tennis and not be overwhelmed. We’re going to continue to practice and train hard and give it our best shot when we play next week. “
Middle Tennessee State University (19-7) is scheduled play University of Michigan (16-6) at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, to be followed by the BU-Ole Miss matchup at noon. The two winners are slated to converge at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 13.