Illini Survive Gopher Attack in Big Ten Opener
Trailing 4-1 in the third set, Illinois junior Cary Franklin (Atlanta, Ga./St. Pius X) rallied for a three-set victory at No. 2 singles, as the fifth-ranked Illini came back from a 3-2 deficit for a 4-3 victory over No. 23 Minnesota at the Atkins Tennis Center today. Illinois has now won a school-record 20 consecutive Big Ten matches.
"Minnesota played very well and they're a good team," said Head Coach Craig Tiley. "We were lucky to come away with a win. Now we have two weeks to work on a long list of weaknesses. But that's what this is all about and that's why I'm confident that this team will accomplish its goals if they continue to be committed to improving everyday."
For the second consecutive season, the Illini have opened the Big Ten slate with a comeback win at the Atkins. In 1998, Illinois rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat Northwestern, 4-3. The Orange and Blue went on to win the Big Ten title with a perfect 13-0 conference mark.
The Illini jumped out to an early 1-0 lead today by sweeping all three doubles matches before faltering in singles. Minnesota won the first set in five of the six singles matches and seemed poised to pull off the upset. Gavin Sontag (Aurora, Ohio/Aurora) earned a win at No. 3 singles, 7-6(1), 6-2, over Adam Selkirk to give the Illini a 2-0 lead but the Gophers then won three straight singles matches, at the Nos. 1, 5, and 6 spots to claim a 3-2 advantage.
Illinois' Jeff Laski (Lisle, Ill./Naperville North) responded, fighting back for a three-set win at No. 4 singles, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, over UM's Jon Svensson, to knot the score at 3-3. Meanwhile at No. 2 singles, Franklin had lost the first set to Minnesota's Tyson Parry but claimed the second in a tie-breaker to force a final set. Parry jumped out to a 4-1 lead before Franklin rallied to knot the score at 6-6 and force another tie-breaker. The Illini junior then jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the tie-break before holding on to propel the Orange and Blue to victory with his 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), win.
The Fighting Illini improve to 4-0 on the year, 1-0 in the Big Ten, and will not play another dual match for two weeks, as the squad hosts Wake Forest on February 13 and No. 10 Duke on February 14. Next weekend, a school-record three Illini will be participating at the Rolex National Indoor Championships in Texas from Feb. 5-7. Oliver Freelove (Bromley, England/Seven Oaks) will play singles while the duo of Sontag and Laski will compete in the doubles draw of the tournament, which is the third leg of the ITA Collegiate Grand Slam.
Illinois 4, Minnesota 3