Juniors Lead Illini Past Badgers
The top-seeded University of Illinois men's tennis team easily advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Championships this morning at the Varsity Tennis Courts in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the Illini's three juniors each contributed singles wins to seal a 4-0 victory over Wisconsin. Illinois, ranked No. 2 in the country, has now won 30 consecutive Big Ten dual matches and improves to 23-3 on the season, equalling the school record for wins in a season set in 1984.
"Today was a good start," head coach Craig Tiley said. "We were very solid in doubles again but I felt we could do more in singles. We keep opening doors for opponents and if you do that against really good teams, they will take advantage. We will work on that later today and get ready for the semifinals tomorrow."
Illinois maintained its dominance in doubles, clinching the doubles point for the 16th consecutive contest thanks to impressive performances at the top two positions. At No. 1 doubles, Illinois' third-ranked pair of Oliver Freelove and Cary Franklin won its 16th straight match of the season by routing UW's Mark Loughrin and Adam Schumacher, 8-1. The Illini duo continues to build on its school-record for doubles wins in a season, improving to 31-7 on the year and 11-0 in the Big Ten.
At the No. 2 spot, the duo of Jeff Laski and Jamal Parker remained undefeated on the year by rolling past the team of Stefan Reist and David Chang, 8-1. The UI pair is now 16-0 on the season and 10-0 in conference. Both Laski/Parker and Freelove/Franklin are nearing the school record for consecutive doubles wins, set in 1958 when the team of Breckenridge/Bielfeld went 18-0.
In singles play, Illinois won the first set in five of the six matches before the three UI juniors clinched the victory. Franklin was the first Illini off the court, rolling past Stefan Reist, 6-0, 6-3 at the No. 2 position. Franklin is now 31-10 this season, equalling the fourth-highest win total in school history, and 11-0 in confrence play. Jakub Teply, who did not finish his match today, currently leads the Illini with 32 singles wins. Junior Matt Snyder put the Illini up 3-0 with a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of UW's Dave Sacks at the No. 6 position.
The clinching win came at the No. 3 spot, as Laski rallied from a 5-0 second-set deficit to edge Adam Schumacher 6-3, 7-6 (7). After claiming the first set, the UI junior had his serve broken twice as Schumacher built his 5-0 advantage. Laski responded by breaking Schumacher's serve twice and forging a 6-6 tie. In the tie-breaker, Laski again fell behind early, trailing 5-2 before coming back once again to win the tie-break 9-7.
The Illini are now 23-3 this season and 11-0 in the Big Ten as they advance to the round of four of the conference tourney. Illinois will face the winner of the Minnesota-Indiana match on Saturday at 11 a.m., central daylight time. In other morning action, second-seeded Michigan was stunned by seventh-seeded Northwestern 4-3, as the Wildcats advance to the semifinals to face the winner f the Purdue-Michigan State match.
Illinois 4, Wisconsin 0