#7 Illinois Starts Big Ten Play at #23 Northwestern Sunday
Feb. 28, 2014
URBANA, Ill. - The seventh ranked Illini men's tennis team will return to action for the first time in two weeks when they make their Big Ten play debut against the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday, March 2. The match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. CT inside the Combe Tennis Center.
Ross Guignon went undefeated at No. 6 singles at the National Indoor Championships. The junior also served up a 2-0 record in doubles along with Kopinski, including a dominant 6-1 win over No. 12 Harris/Webb from Oklahoma. Lastly, Farris Gosea and Blake Bazarnik produced 2-1 records in singles play in Houston.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Illinois enjoys quite the advantage in the all-time series vs. Northwestern, as they enter Sunday's matchup with a 60-37-2 record against the in-state rival. In fact, the Illini have been the winners of 23 straight against the Wildcats. Their last lost to Northwestern was back in 1997.
Northwestern is currently ranked 23rd in the country with a 10-4 record, 7-1 at home. However, the Wildcats are just 1-4 against teams ranked in the top-25, with their lone win coming against No. 24 Tulsa on Jan. 25.
Raleigh Smith is Northwestern's highest ranked singles player, checking in at No. 44 in the latest ITA poll. Smith is 6-3 in dual matches this spring with a 3-2 mark against ranked opponents.
Sam Shropshire is ranked 85th in the country and has recorded a 7-3 record at the No. 1-3 singles positions.
Northwestern has one ranked doubles team in Smith and Mihir Kumar. The 21st-ranked pair play No. 1 doubles where they are 3-2 in 2014.
A LOOK AT LAST YEAR'S BIG TEN PLAY
Last season, the Illini finished in a tie for third place in the Big Ten standings with an 8-3 record. The team's only losses came to Minnesota, Michigan and conference winner Ohio State. Illinois received the No. 4 seed of the Big Ten Tournament, where they lost to the Buckeyes in the semifinals.
Current No. 1 and No. 2 singles players Jared Hiltzik and Farris Gosea combined for a 17-4 Big Ten dual match record in 2013. Alex Jesse also emerged late in the conference season and produced a 4-1 mark. In doubles, Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski achieved a 4-1 record in Big Ten action, while the team of Jared Hiltzik and Alex Jesse went unblemished at 7-0.
NEW ILLINI RANKINGS
The Feb. 25 ITA poll revealed that the Fighting Illini jumped seven spots to No. 7 in the country. It marks the team's highest ranking since March 2011 (No. 4).
Jared Hiltzik remained locked at No. 8 in the singles rankings. Despite a 1-2 mark at National Indoors, Hiltzik is 6-3 this spring. Farris Gosea continues his climb up the charts, moving seven more spots to No. 23. Gosea is 7-2 overall, playing all but one match at No. 2 singles. Tim Kopinski dropped slightly to No. 33. The junior is 6-3 this season playing at No. 3 singles.
Kopinski and Guignon moved back up to No. 4 in the doubles rankings. The Illini duo are winners of three straight and are 6-2 in dual matches overall. Lastly, if Hiltzik and Jesse are paired together, they are ranked 45th in the nation.
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