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    Men's Tennis

    Illini Netters Edged by Defending National Champs
    No. 24 Kevin Anderson defeated his UCLA opponent in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.

    No. 24 Kevin Anderson defeated his UCLA opponent in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.

    May 20, 2006

    The eighth-ranked, seventh-seeded Illinois men's tennis team lost a heartbreaking, 4-2 decision to the defending national champion UCLA squad, Saturday at the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., ending its quest for the program's second-ever national championship. The grueling match lasted three hours and 28 minutes. The Illini finish the 2006 season a 24-7 record.

    "You've got to give UCLA a lot of credit," head coach Brad Dancer said. "They found a way to win points in the critical times of the match. We had chances to win this match, but didn't take advantage (of those chances). The doubles point proved to be pivotal. All season, we haven't seemed to be able to bounce back from losing doubles. I thought we had the edge at No. 3 doubles, but we couldn't pull out the win."

    After a one hour and 21 minute doubles session, the Illini found themselves down a point heading into singles. UCLA got the upperhand winning 8-6 at No. 2 doubles, downing the 19th-ranked team of seniors Ryler DeHeart and Pramod Dabir. The fourth-ranked No. 1 team of Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe jumped out to a 4-0 start before the second-ranked Bruins team of Philipp Gruendler and Benjamin Kohlloeffel made it a close match. However, the Illini got the upset forcing a 9-7 win. It was a good 30 minutes later before a winner was awarded at No. 3 as GD Jones and Ruben Gonzales lost a tiebreak heartbreaker at No. 3, 9-8 (2) to Mathieu Dehaine and Jeremy Drean.

    UCLA kept their edge in singles winning three of the six first sets, with the Illini taking first sets from Anderson at No. 2, Jones at No. 3 and Marc Spicijaric at No. 6. The Bruins improved to 2-0 in the match when Rowe lost 6-4, 6-2, to Gruendler. Illinois jumped on the board with its first point from Anderson, who won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3 over Abid.

    "I thought Kevin was the bright spot in this match for us," Dancer continued. "He was striking the ball very well today. He is one of those players that I think could have carried us deep into the tournament, and I would have liked to see him do that."

    Senior DeHeart then fell in straight sets, giving No. 1-ranked Kohlloeffel a tough second set, 4-6, 6-7(5). The loss then put the Illini in a must-win situation for the remaining three matches. Jones won in three sets over Dehaine, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, which left No. 5 and No. 6 singles still playing. At No. 5, Gonzales fell in the first set 4-6 and was down 2-4 before getting the break and a 4-4 score. However, two games later Chris Surapol won the match with straight 6-4, 6-4 scores. No. 6 singles was abandoned, but freshman Marc Spicijaric had a commanding third-set 4-2 score before the match was called.

    With the team competition over for the Illini, four individuals still look to continue in the singles and doubles draw. Eleventh-ranked DeHeart and 24th-ranked Kevin Anderson qualified for the singles draw, which begins on Wed., May 24 and the doubles teams of fourth-ranked Rowe/Anderson and 19th-ranked Dabir/DeHeart will begin on Thurs., May 25.

    No. 1 - #4 Anderson/Rowe (ILL) def. #2 Gruendler/Kohlloeffel (UCLA), 9-7
    No. 2 - Abid/Surapol (UCLA) def. Dabir/DeHeart (ILL), 8-6
    No. 3 - Dehaine/Drean (UCLA) def. Gonzales/Jones (ILL), 9-8 (2)
    Order of Finish - 2, 1, 3

    Singles No. 1 - #1 Benjamin Kohlloeffel (UCLA) def. Ryler DeHeart (ILL), 6-4, 7-6 (5) No. 2 - #24 Kevin Anderson (ILL) def. Haythem Abid (UCLA), 6-4, 6-3 No. 3 - #88 GD Jones (ILL) def. Mathieu Dehaine (UCLA), 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 No. 4 - Philipp Gruendler (UCLA) def. Ryan Rowe (ILL), 6-4, 6-2 No. 5 - Chris Surapol (UCLA) def. Ruben Gonzales (ILL), 6-4, 6-4 No. 6 - Marc Spicijaric (ILL) led Michael Look (UCLA), 6-2, 4-6, 4-2 (abd) Order of Finish - 4, 2, 1, 3, 5

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