#24 Illini Upset #3 Ohio State to Win Big Ten Tournament
April 29, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. - The 24th-ranked and third-seeded Fighting Illini men's tennis team (17-7) captured its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005 in a dramatic 4-3 comeback over top-seeded and third-ranked Ohio State (31-3) Sunday afternoon at Northwestern's Vandy Christie Tennis Center. Illinois' victory snapped the Buckeyes' 92-match winning streak against teams in the Big Ten and ended OSU's six-year reign as tournament champions.
"It's been a long time coming," head coach Brad Dancer said. "The players have just gotten stronger and stronger in their belief and in terms of what they are trying to do. I give all the credit in the world to our guys because they went out and fought through it, and it was a total team effort. They earned it, and they truly deserve it."
The Illini dropped the doubles point for the first time in four matches, falling on courts two and three, before suffering a straight-set loss at No. 1 singles to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 advantage. Freshman Tim Kopinski stormed back with a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory over #115 Ille Van Engelen on court four, but Illinois fell at the No. 3 position in the next completed match to put Ohio State one win away from its seventh straight Big Ten tournament title.
Junior Stephen Hoh was unfazed, however, winning a 6-4, 0-6, 6-1 decision over No. 85 Devin McCarthy at the No. 5 spot. Freshman Ross Guignon followed with a 7-6, 6-4 win over #105 Connor Smith to even the contest at 3-3.
In the final remaining match of the day, No. 41 Roy Kalmanovich maintained his composure after a second-set loss, finishing out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 thriller over No. 6 Blaz Rola to clinch Illinois' first tournament crown in seven years.
"I'd like to credit Ohio State for the amazing year they've had," Dancer said. "It's humbling to beat that team. I'd like to also credit my coaches. I thought they made a massive difference. (Associate head coach) Marcos Asse was a critical factor for us throughout the championships and has been a force all season long."
The win marked the Orange and Blue's first victory over Ohio State since 2007. The Illini now boast a 57-39-1 lead in the all-time series and join No. 1 USC and No. 2 Georgia as the only teams to beat the Buckeyes this season. OSU has won 48 of its last 52 contests overall and is now 22-3 against teams in the top 75.
The Illini will await their fate for the opening round of the NCAA Championships, which are slated to begin May 11 at regional sites. The selections will be announced Tuesday, May 1 at 4:30 p.m. CT on NCAA.com. Today's match will air tape-delayed on May 10 at 4 p.m.
Match Results - #24 ILL 4, #3 OSU 3
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (1,4,3,5,2)