The No. 12 Illini host No. 17 Texas A&M Friday at 6 p.m. at Atkins Tennis Center.
March 4, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 12th-ranked Illini men's tennis team (5-5, 0-0 Big Ten) returns to Atkins Tennis Center on Friday, March 5 to host No. 17 Texas A&M (7-2) at 6 p.m., before traveling to No. 34 Northwestern (7-3, 0-0 Big Ten) the following night for its Big Ten opener at 6 p.m. at Combe Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill.
"This is one of those exciting, challenging weekends and a bit non-typical in playing consecutive days at different sites," head coach Brad Dancer said. "But with the close proximity to Northwestern, I thought it was something we could manage. Again, we keep coming up against these teams that have tremendous depth in their lineups, as both Texas A&M and Northwestern go many players deep and we've got respect for them at all spots."
Prior to the men's tennis match against Texas A&M on Friday, there will be a FREE tennis clinic for children 8th grade and under from 4-5 p.m. at Atkins Tennis Center. Free pizza and prizes will be provided. Please bring your own racket and wear gym shoes (some rackets may be provided). Please RSVP by emailing Elizabeth (firstname.lastname@example.org) your child's age and name.
Additionally, in between doubles and singles on Friday, fans will be treated to a tennis exhibition match between Illinois football players, including Justin Staples and Evan Frierson on Team Linebacker and Steve Hull and Terry Hawthorne on Team Offense.
LAST TIME OUT
Playing in front of a home crowd for the first time in over a month, the Illini got back on track with a 5-2 defeat of No. 38 Notre Dame (6-6) Tuesday night at Atkins Tennis Center. Freshman Stephen Hoh clinched the victory after rallying back in a thrilling, three-set win over David Anderson, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
With sophomore Dennis Nevolo forced to sit out due to illness, the Illini made some last-minute adjustments to the lineup that ended up paying off big for several players. No. 106 senior Marek Czerwinski filled in at No. 1 singles and captured a straight sets upset over No. 19 Casey Watt, 7-5, 6-4, while freshman Bruno Abdelnour made his singles dual debut and topped Blas Moros, 6-4, 6-3 to setup Hoh's match-clinching victory. No. 66 junior Abe Souza closed out the night with a grueling, come-from-behind victory over No. 72 Daniel Stahl, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8).
Illinois captured an early 1-0 lead after securing the doubles point, as Abdelnour and junior Johnny Hamui, who were playing together for the first time this season, cruised to an 8-1 win over Anderson and Matt Johnson. Souza and junior Connor Roth clinched the point with an 8-6 defeat of Niall Fitzgerald and Tyler Davis.
CZERWINSKI NAMED BIG TEN ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Marek Czerwinski was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week, announced March 2 by the conference office. The Birmingham, Mich., native captured the Illini's lone singles win last Sunday at No. 6 Florida, handing Antoine Benneteau his first dual loss of the season with a 6-3, 7-5 defeat. It is the second such honor of his career and first this season for Illinois.
Czerwinski also teamed up with Stephen Hoh to capture their first win of the season over a nationally ranked opponent, topping 10th-ranked Benneteau and Alexandre Lacroix, 9-7 to clinch the doubles point for the Illini.
APPROACHING THE CENTURY MARK
Fifth-year head coach Brad Dancer, who has tallied at least 20 wins in each of his first four seasons, picked up his 95th win at Illinois with the victory over Notre Dame on March 2.
CAMPBELL'S/ITA NATIONAL RANKINGS
In new national singles rankings released March 2, Dennis Nevolo checked in at No. 43, followed by Abe Souza (66) and Marek Czerwinski (106). In doubles, Nevolo and Czerwinski dropped one spot to eighth and two Illini tandems debuted in the rankings, as Nevolo and Johnny Hamui were ranked No. 38 and Czerwinski and Stephen Hoh checked in at No. 49.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
The Aggies are currently riding a four-match winning streak, with their last loss coming to then-No. 8 Texas, 4-3 on Feb. 5. Top returners for the squad include juniors Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo, while newcomer Alberto Bautista has seen action at Nos. 3-6 singles. Krajicek is currently ranked a career-high No. 16 and is 7-0 at No. 1 singles and 11-4 overall, while Dadamo dropped 10 spots to No. 33 and is 5-2 at Nos. 1-3 singles and 14-5 overall. In doubles, Krajicek and Dadamo have compiled an 11-4 overall record and reached their best ranking of the season at ninth. Additionally, teammates Alexey Grigorov and Marcus Lunt were ranked at No. 33 and are 7-2 overall, including 4-1 in dual matches.
Illinois leads the all-time series, 7-5, though Texas A&M won last year's meeting, 4-3 in College Station, Texas.
"We know how athletic they are at almost every spot, with guys that have weapons and can win a lot of free points, so our resiliency will be key there," Dancer said. "We must come out attacking. You can't just go out and hope to win, but rather, we'll need to develop good tactical plans and really stick to trying to break down any weaknesses we can find."
BIG TEN OPENER SATURDAY
After dropping three straight, Northwestern has bounced back to win its last three matches over Western Michigan, Middle Tennessee State and Princeton. Underclassmen have been the key thus far for the Wildcats, as sophomore Joshua Graves is 6-3 to open the dual season at No. 1 singles, while freshmen Spencer Wolf (7-2) and Mark Schanerman (6-1) have been contributors anywhere from Nos. 2-6 and have each won three straight matches.
Illinois leads the all-time series, 55-37-3, and has won 17 straight over the Wildcats dating back to the 1997-98 season.
"I have tremendous respect for Arvid (Swan) and Chris (Drake) and the job they are doing," Dancer said. "Northwestern is deep, skilled and they have a different culture about them. In terms of starting off the Big Ten season, it will be a big challenge for us to play on the road, but I think with the match play we've got going right now, we should at least be sharp with our focus."
The Illini will be back at home on Friday, March 19 to host a doubleheader with nonconference foes Ball State (10 a.m.) and Illinois State (3 p.m.) at Atkins Tennis Center.