#17 Illinois Departs for Tuesday Double-Header
March 3, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The #17 Illinois men's tennis team will have no time to catch their breath as they quickly depart to South Bend, Ind., for a double header Tuesday against Illinois State and #29 Notre Dame. The Illini face in-state foe ISU first at 9 a.m. CT, then will regroup for a 5 p.m. match vs. the Fighting Irish.
The 2013 edition of the Illini are off to 6-3 start with a 2-0 record in Big Ten play. This Tuesday, the Orange and Blue will attempt to claim their first three and four game win streaks of the season. In addition, the Illini have won four of their past five games, including against three ranked in the Top-25.
Statistically, the Illinois men's tennis program has dominated the overall series against Illinois State which started back in 1938. The Illini enjoy a 53-1 series advantage. The lone loss occurred on March 31, 1973. Since, Illinois has won 36 straight.
Meanwhile, the Illini will look to even the overall series against Notre Dame as they currently trail 22-23. The Orange and Blue got the best of the Fighting Irish last year when the Illini defeated the 28th-ranked foe 4-3. Finally, Illinois head coach Brad Dancer boasts a 5-3 record against Notre Dame.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
Illinois State sits on a .500 record at 5-5 thus far, including a 2-1 neutral court record. The Redbirds have already faced a Big Ten opponent in Nebraska, whom they lost to 4-3. After a 7-0 shutout vs. Butler on Feb. 16, Illinois State enters the contest on a two game losing streak, suffering defeats at William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth.
Notre Dame is 6-5 on the year, enjoying a 4-2 record at home. The Fighting Irish have also faced Northwestern, Duke and Kentucky this season, but unlike the Illini, could not pull the win in any of the three. In addition, three of the past four matches for Notre Dame have come against Big Ten teams as they emerged with a 2-1 record against them.
STARTING THE CONFERENCE OFF RIGHT
After two weeks off to prepare for the rest of the season ahead, the Fighting Illini came out in full force to start 2-0 in Big Ten play. First, the Orange and Blue shutout the Hawkeyes 7-0. It was the first 7-0 win over a Big Ten opponent since the 2010-11 season, in which the Illini accomplished the feat against both Wisconsin and Penn State.
Furthermore, Jared Hiltzik, Ross Guignon, Tim Kopinski and Farris Gosea all enjoyed 2-0 weekends in singles competition. Hiltzik has now won five in a row and is 3-1 when playing in the one spot. Guignon has experienced a great start to his sophomore campaign with a 5-1 dual meet record. Kopinski cruised through the weekend as he did not allow either of his opponents to reach four games in any of their sets. Finally, Gosea was the first to finish both his singles matches this past weekend, winning 6-2, 6-1, in both, as the sophomore is 3-0 when playing the five spot.
The Illini inched closer back to their preseason ranking, jumping two slots to the No. 17 spot this week. In addition, after a great start to his freshman campaign, Jared Hiltzik climbs an impressive 76 spots from No. 114 to No. 37. Hiltzik also has company this time around in the new singles rankings, as Tim Kopinski is now ranked 113th and Ross Guignon 118th.
Notre Dame is the only ranked opponent facing the Illini Tuesday, checking in at the No. 29 slot. In addition, the Fighting Irish consist of two ranked singles competitors in No. 97 Greg Andrews and #102 Blas Moros. Neither of the three teams have a ranked doubles pairing.
THE NO LONGER ELUSIVE POINT
After coming close several times in trying to capture the doubles point under normal ITA rules, the Illini captured it twice this past weekend against #20 Northwestern and Iowa. Two weeks of statistical analyzation of doubles play paid off for Coach Dancer as his new pairings paid dividends or in this case, two combined points. The duo of Farris Gosea and Alex Jesse were the lone pairing to win both their doubles matches, including a crucial tie-break point against the Wildcats.
Due to the quick turnaround, the Illini will then have 12 days before their next pair of games where they will square off against non-conference foes for the last time during the regular season. On March 17, Illinois welcomes Virginia to Atkins for a 12 p.m. CT showdown. Then, the very next day USC comes to Urbana for a 3 p.m. CT match.