The No. 17 Illini will open the season with three home matches this weekend.
Jan. 19, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After a week of solid individual play at the Gardnar Mulloy Miami Invitational, the Fighting Illini men's tennis team will kick off its dual schedule this weekend with three matches at Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana. No. 17 Illinois will take on Detroit Mercy (3 p.m.) and Ball State (7 p.m.) on Friday and will square off with Notre Dame on Sunday at 3 p.m.
"We'd like to start our season off the way we feel we are capable of starting," Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said. "We have good energy and chemistry. We want to play our best tennis in April and May this year, but we also want to take advantage of some of the opportunities right now. We want to position ourselves to be in the best spot to go to the NCAA Championships at the end of the season. I think we missed some opportunities early in the season last year, so I want us to take advantage of those opportunities this time."
Illinois is 4-2 in season openers under head coach Brad Dancer and 4-1 when opening the dual season at home.
The Illini have faced Ball State every season since 2001, holding an 11-0 advantage in that span and 16-8 all-time. The Orange and Blue are 1-0 all-time against Detroit Mercy, meeting once in 2009, and are 21-23 against Notre Dame, splitting the series last year, with each team winning on its home court.
CAMPBELL/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
Individual rankings were released on Jan. 3, with senior Dennis Nevolo checking in at No. 2, followed by fellow senior Roy Kalmanovich at No. 24. Both rankings mark career highs for the pair of Illini.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Detroit Mercy (0-2) opened its season with a 6-1 loss to Western Michigan and 7-0 loss to DePaul last weekend. Junior Pablo Nunez picked up the lone singles victory for the Titans. Detroit also captured one doubles win over the weekend, as Junior Cesar Escobar Serrano and freshman Jay Joshi took down a Western Michigan duo at No. 3 doubles.
Ball State started the season with a 6-1 loss to Northwestern, as junior Alexandre Brym claimed the only win for the Cardinals, taking a straight-set victory at the No. 3 spot. Friday's matchup against the Illini will mark the second straight Big Ten opponent for Ball State.
Notre Dame is 2-0 going into the weekend, securing a pair of 7-0 wins over Illinois State and Toledo last weekend. Senior Casey Watt, junior Blas Moros, sophomore Greg Andrews and freshman Wyatt McCoy each went 2-0 in the Irish victories, and Watt and Andrews teamed up to go 2-0 in doubles action as well. Notre Dame also boasts the nation's No. 74-ranked player, senior Sam Keeton. The Irish will take on William & Mary on Friday before facing the Illini on Sunday.
LAST TIME OUT
Illinois wrapped up its first tournament of the spring season last weekend at the Gardnar Mulloy Miami Invitational, hosted by the University of Miami. There, the Orange and Blue went 12-8 in singles play and 4-5 in doubles action, taking on opponents from No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 22 Texas Tech and Miami. Senior Roy Kalmanovich led the Illini all weekend, going a perfect 3-0 in singles play to earn Most Outstanding Player accolades.
Following Sunday's match against Notre Dame, the Illini will head to Atlanta, Ga., for ITA Kick-off Weekend. The Orange and Blue will face No. 20 North Carolina on Sunday, Jan. 29 and will take on either No. 15 Georgia Tech or No. 21 Auburn on Monday, Jan. 30.