No. 15 Illinois Drops Heartbreaker to No. 2 Ohio State
May 16, 2008
TULSA, Okla. - The No. 15 seed Illinois men's tennis team lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to the No. 2-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, this afternoon at the 2008 NCAA Tennis Championships in Tulsa, Okla. The grueling match lasted nearly four and a half hours. The Orange and Blue finish the season with a 20-9 record.
"It was disappointing to lose such a close match," head coach Brad Dancer said. "However, we know where our areas of improvement are and now we will take this summer to work on executing them."
For the second straight match against the Buckeyes, the Illini came out firing on all cylinders in doubles. At No. 2 doubles, the No. 42 nationally-ranked duo of Ruben Gonzales and Marc Spicijaric were the first tally a victory, downing the No. 14 nationally-ranked Ohio State tandem of Drew Eberly and Justin Kronauge, 8-5. In a battle at No. 1 doubles, between the No. 11-ranked Illini pair of Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe and the No. 10 ranked Ohio State duo of Bryan Koniecko and Steven Moneke, the Buckeyes edged the Illini, 8-6, to even out the doubles victories and turn all attention to No. 3 doubles.
At No. 3 doubles, the Illinois tandem of Brandon Davis and Waylon Chin were up 5-2, however the pesky Buckeyes would not go away, evening the score at eight-all to force a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker the freshman Chin had a huge forehand return to give the Illini a 6-4 advantage, then the senior Davis used his leadership to close out the tiebreaker 7-4, giving the Illini a 1-0 lead heading into singles.
Sophomore Billy Heiser wasted no time in taking care of his opponent, Matt Allare (OSU), in straight sets 6-4, 6-0, to give the Illini a 2-0 lead. The Buckeyes battled back, taking wins at No. 1, 2, and 5 singles to take a 3-2 advantage. The attention shifted to play at No. 3 and No. 6 singles.
The freshman Chin (ILL), at No. 6 singles, won his first set 7-5 over Drew Eberly (OSU). Eberly took the second set, 6-2, to force the match into a third set. In the third set, the impressive play of Chin was too much for the Buckeye, with Chin downing the Buckeye, 6-2, to win the match.
With the score 3-3, fans gathered around the match at No. 3 singles, where Illinois junior Marc Spicijaric found himself down a set to No. 19-ranked Justin Kronauge. With the high intensity and match on the line, Spicijaric regrouped and forced the second set into a tiebreaker. However, the tiebreaker did not last long, as on the first point Kronauge (OSU) had his fourth overrule of the match resulting in a game penalty, giving Spicijaric a second set 7-6 (0) victory to force a third set.
In the third set, the two went back and forth, forcing the match into a third-set tiebreaker situation. With the faithful Illini fans cheering his every move, Spicijaric fought hard, but could not overcome Kronauge, falling 7-3 in the third-set tiebreaker.
While the team competition may be over for the Orange and Blue, three individuals still look to continue in the singles and doubles draw. No. 21-ranked Rowe and No. 42-ranked Gonzales qualified for the singles draw, which begins on Wed., May 21 and the No. 11-ranked duo of Heiser and Rowe will compete in the doubles draw starting on Thurs., May 22.
No. 2 Ohio State 4, No. 15 Illinois 3
Order of Finish: Doubles (2,1,3) Singles (4,5,1,2,6,3)