Illini Seal Second Straight Perfect Season at MSU
The second-ranked University of Illinois men's tennis team went undefeated through the Big Ten regular season for the second straight year, as the Illini put the finishing touches on a 10-0 conference mark with a 5-2 win at Michigan State today in East Lansing. Illinois has now won 29 straight matches against Big Ten opponents and improves to 22-3 overall, surpassing the win total of last season' squad.
"This was a close win for us," said Head Coach Craig Tiley. "Michigan State was very aggressive so today was really good preparation heading into the championship weekend. Now we forget about what we accomplished in the regular season and take care of business at the Big Ten championships."
For the seventh straight contest, Illinois swept all three doubles matches to claim a 1-0 lead. At No. 1 doubles, Illinois' third-ranked duo of Oliver Freelove and Cary Franklin continued to build on it's school record for wins in a season by defeating MSU's team of Struck/Kigongo, 8-4. The Illini duo has now won 15 straight matches and improves to 30-7 on the season. At the No. 2 spot, the UI pair of Jeff Laski and Jamal Parker are now 15-0 on the season after beating the team of Trinidad/Primorac, 8-3. Both Illini duos are challenging the UI school record for consecutive doubles wins, which is 18 straight by the pair of Breckenridge/Bielfeld in 1958.
Singles proved more challenging, as the two squads split the first four matches to give the Illini a 3-2 advantage. Illinois dominated at the top two spots, as Freelove won his seventh straight match by edging Trey Eubanks, 6-2, 7-6, and Franklin swept past Ken Kigongo, 6-2, 6-2.
With the wins, both players joined the exclusive 30-victory club at Illinois. Freelove is now 30-14 while Franklin improves to 30-10 this season. Only six UI netters in school history have won 30 or more singles matches in a season and four of those players are on this year's team.
The Illini clinched the victory with a pair of three-set wins at the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. Jakub Teply continued to build on his team-best win total by rallying past Ivica Primorac, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. The UI senior is now 32-14 on the year, tying former-Illini Jerry Turek for second place on the single-season victories list. Only fellow-senior Gavin Sontag has won more matches in a season, with 40 victories in 1998.
The Illini are now 22-3 on the season, just one win shy of the school record set in 1984. Illinois will aim for its third straight conference tournament title next weekend, as the squad competes at the Big Ten Championships. With the top seed, the Illini receive a first-round bye and will begin play on Friday.