#22 Illini Upend #10 Texas 4-3 in Thrilling Finish
Feb. 9, 2014
URBANA, Ill. - In five days at home, the No. 22 ranked Illinois men's tennis (5-2) team knocked off No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 8 Texas A&M and now No. 10 Texas. The Illini took the home fans on a thrilling ride of emotions Sunday afternoon at the Atkins Tennis Center, gutting out another come from behind win and handing Texas (7-1) their first loss of the season.
The wild finish to today's contest came down to courts three and five where juniors Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon played, respectively. Illinois had their backs against the wall, down 3-2 with Texas closing in on the final point.
No. 46 Kopinski was up 3-0 in the third set but No. 24 George Goldhoff rallied, winning five of the next six games to go up 5-4. With the fate of the match in the balance, Kopinski held serve to force a tiebreak.
Goldhoff then started the tiebreak on a strong note, building a 4-1 lead. However, true to the Fighting Illini name, Kopinski grinded out six straight points to take the match.
"It was unbelievable," said Kopinski. "At the time I really didn't think about it. Brad was telling me between points to be physical and to be calm and that kind of helped me a lot."
Thus, with the score tied at 3-3, all eyes at Atkins turned to Guignon, who was in the middle of a three-set battle with Nick Naumann. It was a back and forth duel in the beginning, as the first two sets both went to a tiebreak. Yet, in the third set, Guignon jumped out of the gate to a 3-0 lead. With the score 5-3 Guignon, the junior served out the victory and the clincher over Texas.
"It just a lot of emotion in general," Guignon said when asked if he felt nervous or excited at the end. "I'm an emotional guy. It was a lot going on. I've been in a situation like that before but this time I was ready. Win or lose, I was ready for the moment and today I was fortunate to come out on top."
Illinois couldn't have gotten to that point if it weren't for earlier wins from No. 4 Jared Hiltzik and No. 106 Farris Gosea. Hiltzik earned a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 75 Soren Hess-Olesen while Gosea cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 35 Lloyd Glasspool. Thus, both Hiltzik and Gosea capped off an undefeated week in singles competition, which saw the duo earn three straight-set victories each.
"Texas is a great team, we were fortunate to come out of it with a win," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "We are just finding out how to get gritty and dirty and nasty out there, and that's what I love about this team. We have a great group of competitors."
Despite today's win, Illinois lost its sixth straight doubles decision today. No. 4 Kopinski and Guignon were the lone bright spot, adding to their stellar day with a 6-1 doubles win over No. 5 Hess-Olesen and Glasspool.
Up next, the Illini carry a huge wave of momentum into the National Indoor Championships that start Feb. 14 in Houston, Texas.
"If we can get doubles on track and keep improving marginal things in singles, then I think we are getting better," concluded Dancer. "We have a lot of work to do but we are getting better. Now we have to figure out how we can be the most ready for Houston."
No. 2 -- Naumann / Goldhoff (UT) def. Hiltzik / Gosea (ILL), 6-5(6)
No. 3 -- Holiner / Lewis (UT) def. Jesse / Page (ILL), 6-1
No. 2 -- #106 Farris Gosea (ILL) def. #35 Lloyd Glasspool (UT), 6-2, 6-1
No. 3 -- #46 Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. #24 George Goldhoff (UT), 5-6(4), 6-2, 6-5(4)
No. 4 - Adrien Berkowicz (UT) def. Brian Page (ILL), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
No. 5 - Ross Guignon (ILL) def. Nick Naumann (UT), 6-5(4), 5-6(4), 6-3
No. 6 -- Sudanwa Sitaram (UT) def. Julian Childers (ILL), 6-1, 6-3