Doubles Prove Difference in Win over Purdue
The University of Illinois men's tennis team, ranked No. 2 in the country, was pushed to the limit by Purdue today at the Atkins Tennis Center, as the Illini swept all three doubles matches for what turned out to be the deciding point in a 4-3 victory. Despite the challenge, Illinois extends its school-record Big Ten winning streak to 26 matches and has won 18 straight matches at home.
"We were lucky to get this win," said Head Coach Craig Tiley. "We really haven't been playing too well in practice and Purdue is a tough team to beat. For us to come away with a 4-3 win is great because our backs were against the wall. This win should boost our confidence going into the weekend."
The deciding point came in doubles, as the Illini swept all three matches to claim an early 1-0 lead for the 11th consecutive match. At the No. 2 spot, Jeff Laski set a new school-record for doubles wins in a season by improving to 32-10 on the year, breaking the former mark of 31 wins set in 1983 by Peter Bouton. Laski is now an impressive 11-0 with Jamal Parker, as the duo defeated PU's pair of James/Marshall, 8-5.
At No. 1 doubles, Illinois' third-ranked duo of Oliver Freelove and Cary Franklin won their 11th straight match by edging PU's team of Myers/Al-Agba, 9-7. Freelove/Franklin are now 26-7 on the year, just two wins shy of the school record of 28 wins set by the pair of Bouton and Mike Meyer in 1983.
The Illini quickly boosted their lead to 3-0 after dominating straight-set wins by Freelove and Franklin at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions respectively. However, the remaining four matches all went to three sets as Purdue battled back to climb within 3-1 after a win at the No. 4 spot.
In a battle between talented freshmen at the No. 5 position, UI's Mike Kosta won a first-set tie-breaker and was up two break points at 3-0 in the second set on Derek Miller. Miller rallied to win the next seven games to win the second set, 6-3, and claim a 1-0 lead in the third set. However, Kosta took control of the match to win the next six games for a 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, victory to give Illinois the win. Purdue won the last two matches of the day to close the gap to 4-3.
The Illini are now 19-2 on the year, 7-0 in conference, and will host Indiana on Saturday, April 17, at 1 p.m. at the Atkins Tennis Center. Sunday will be "Senior Day," as Illinois hosts SEC-power Kentucky, ranked No. 13 in the country, at 1 p.m, in the final home match of the regular season.