Gophers Halt #19 Illini in Final Set
March 31, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Minnesota Golden Gophers found a way to extinguish the Fighting Illini's surging start to Big Ten play by dealing the Orange and Blue their first loss of the conference season. In a hard fought contest that was still up for grabs on the final court, it was the home team Minnesota who walked away with the 4-3 win.
The Illini got off on the right foot by setting aside their doubles woes and claiming the momentous first point. Illinois had to come from behind after Ross Guignon and Brian Page fell to Eric Frueh and Leandro Toledo 8-4 on court three. Next, Tim Kopinski teamed with Farris Gosea in number one doubles and defeated Mathieu Froment and Jack Hamburg 9-8(4) to make it all square. Then, the pairing of Jared Hiltzik and Alex Jesse cemented the doubles point by knocking off Rok Bonin and Juan Pablo Ramirez 9-7.
Once singles play got underway, Illinois quickly extended their lead to 2-0 thanks to great play by Stephen Hoh. The senior won his fifth straight singles match after beating Ramirez 6-1, 6-2 in the five slot.
However, the Gophers rallied, tying the game at two after claiming victories on courts one and three. First, #41 Rok Bonin got the best of Kopinski with a 6-1, 6-4 win, followed by Jack Hamburg's 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Abdelnour.
Farris Gosea recaptured the lead after staying undefeated in the number six singles position, obtaining a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win against Ruben Weber. Yet, in the tight back and forth match that was today, Minnesota would make it come down to the final court after #100 Leandro Toledo upset #42 Hiltzik 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Thus, all eyes turned to Mathieu Froment vs. Ross Guignon on court four where the Illini sophomore found early success with a 6-2 first set win. With the match on the line in a 6-6 set tie-break, Froment emerged with the 7-4 victory to force a third and decisive set where he started by claiming the first three games. However, Guignon fought back and won the next three of four to cut the deficit to 4-3. As the match came to an end, Froment claimed victory for the Gophers with a 6-3 third set.
"We put ourselves in a position to win today but didn't close out some matches," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "Give Minnesota credit as they hung tough when we put their backs against the wall. Each match is different but our team plays with great intensity and fight, so the coaching staff clearly needs to better prepare them so they can capitalize on these opportunities."
As a result, the Illini fell to 11-7 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten competition, while Minnesota jumps to 8-8 and 4-1 in conference as well. The loss marked just the second in Brad Dancer's tenure at Illinois against the Gophers (6-2).
Up next, the Orange and Blue continue their conference road trip to the state of Michigan next weekend with matches set against the Wolverines on April 6 and the Spartans on April 7.
MINNESOTA 4, #19 ILLINOIS 3