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    Tough Road Tests at No. 15 Duke and No. 24 Tennessee Await Illinois
    Junior Marc Spicijaric and the Illini hit the road for a pair of top-25 showdowns.

    Junior Marc Spicijaric and the Illini hit the road for a pair of top-25 showdowns.

    Jan. 31, 2008

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 2007 NCAA finalist Illinois men's tennis team hits the road this weekend, facing No. 15 Duke on Friday, Feb. 1, and No. 24 Tennessee on Sunday, Feb. 3. The No. 8 Illini are looking to rebound after dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to top-ranked Virginia in their last outing.

    "We've really worked hard this week on putting the Virginia match behind us and learning from it," head coach Brad Dancer said. "We also have focused on our fitness and hope to display that out on the courts this weekend. As far as our opponents this weekend, they both feature young and talented lineups. Against Duke, the last time we faced them at their place it was a very hostile environment. However, it's situations like that, which will make us a better team in the long run. Our team thrives in those conditions and it will be a good test for these guys to face this kind of top-level competition this early in the season."

    First serve against No. 15 Duke is set for 5 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. local time, on Friday. On Sunday, match time against No. 24 Tennessee is set for 11 a.m. CT, noon local time. A full recap and results can be found at at the conclusion of each match.

    The Illini maintained their No. 8 spot in the ITA Rankings (Jan. 29) after a slim loss to No. 1 Virginia, 4-3, in their last outing. The 2007 NCAA finalist Illini are led by senior No. 15 Ryan Rowe and sophomore No. 70 Billy Heiser, who are 12-7 and 9-7, respectively, on the season in singles action. In doubles, two different tandems have played in the top slot for Illinois, with its most recent duo of senior Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales teaming together to take down the top-rated pair of No. 1 Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey of Virginia, 9-7.

    Senior Ruben Gonzales earned Big Ten Player of the Week for the week ending Jan. 28, the conference office announced on Wednesday, Jan. 30. Gonzales becomes the second Illini to hoist the honor this season, earning the distinction after teaming with senior Brandon Davis to take down the nation's No. 1 tandem in doubles before cruising past the 12-ranked player in singles in the Illini's match against top-rated Virginia last Friday.

    The honor is Gonzales' second of his career and Illinois' second honor of the season after sophomore Billy Heiser won the year's first Big Ten laurel on Jan. 13. In fact, the Fighting Illini have claimed two out of the three conference weekly honors handed out this season.

    After taking the fall semester off to play on the professional tour, senior Ruben Gonzales has entered the Illinois lineup on a mission. Individually, the Illini senior has opened the fall season playing No. 1 for Illinois in their shutdown of Ball State (7-0) to kickoff the dual season. In that match, he had a hot hand throughout as he cruised through Jose Perdomo (BSU) in straights, 7-6 (8), 6-3.

    Gonzales has just gotten better from there, as he has not dropped a set in dual action thus far this season, including his best effort yet when he showed he was up to the task of toping 12th-ranked Treat Huey of Virginia, 6-3, 6-2. Huey was a 2007 NCAA singles participant. In doubles, the Illini senior has been almost perfect on the young season, 4-1 overall and 2-0 in dual action. In his most recent effort, the Terre Haute, Ind., native shocked the nation's top doubles tandem to help Illinois polish off the doubles point against one of the best doubles lineups in the nation in Virginia.

    The No. 15 Duke men's tennis team won their season opener with a 6-1 victory over No. 53 Elon on Saturday, Jan. 26. The three doubles tandems swept the doubles match to put the Blue Devils up 1-0. In the lineup for the Blue Devils, three freshmen competed in their first career dual matches in the opener. Freshmen Christopher Price and Reid Carlton each picked up wins in doubles. Carlton and fellow freshman Jared Pinksky both downed their opponents in straight sets in singles. Carlton has now won four straight singles matches and is 11-4 overall.

    At No. 1 singles, Kiril Dimitrov defeated No. 72 Damon Gooch, 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6-3). Dimitrov is currently 9-5 on the season in singles. Playing at No. 2 singles for the Blue Devils, Goulet had a straight sets triumph over Oscar Podlewski, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

    The Blue Devils are now 2-0 on the season after a victory over No. 73 Princeton on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Duke led 5-0 before the Princeton Tigers closed out the match with two narrow wins.

    The No. 24-ranked Tennessee Volunteers have started the 2008 season a perfect 4-0. Their last time out, the Vols swept UNC Wilmington, 7-0. The Volunteers also have claimed the doubles point in three out of their four matches. Playing at No. 1 singles is nationally ranked No. 28 Boris Conkic. The freshman Conkic has won all four of his singles matches in dual-match play and is 13-2 overall this season.

    At No. 2 singles, sophomore Davey Sandgren also is off to a perfect 4-0 start in dual action in both singles and doubles play. Rounding out the No. 3 singles spot for the Volunteers is sophomore Chris Racz. Racz defeated Michael Pereira in straight sets and is 4-0 in singles.

    The Volunteers host No. 30 Clemson on Friday, Feb. 1, before No. 8 Illinois rolls into town on Sunday, Feb. 3.

    The Illini return from their road duals to play in the friendly confines of the Atkins Tennis Center when they host No. 18 LSU on Saturday, Feb. 9. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CT.

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