Illinois Falls Short in Blue Gray Title Match
The University of Illinois men's tennis team lost for just the second time in 15 matches, as the No. 2 Illini were defeated by No. 10 Southern Methodist today, 4-2, in the championship match of the Blue Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala.
For the fourth time in this tourney, Illinois jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage by winning the doubles point. The Illini's No. 1 pair of Oliver Freelove and Cary Franklin, ranked No. 9 in the country, upset a higher-ranked duo for the second straight day. After beating the nation's top-ranked duo on Saturday, the UI pair defeated SMU's team of Dustin Mauck and Keith Pollak, ranked No. 5 nationally, 8-5.
The Illini faltered in singles, as the Mustangs earned straight-set wins at the Nos. 3, 5 and 6 positions. At No. 2 singles, Franklin attempted to rally his team by defeating Hansson, 7-5, 6-1, to cut into the deficit. The UI junior improves to an impressive 13-1 in all dual matches and 22-8 overall. At No. 1 singles, Freelove, the No. 4 player in the nation, was edged in a first-set tie-breaker and fell in straight-sets to SMU's Ignacio Hirigoyen, ranked tenth nationally, 7-6, 6-3.
The Fighting Illini are now 13-2 on the season after advancing to the finals of this prestigious tournament for the first time in UI history. Illinois returns to action next weekend, as the squad battles regional-rival Notre Dame, ranked 26th in the nation, in South Bend, Ind. on Saturday, March 27.