Ryler DeHeart has a chance to break the Illinois school record for most singles wins in a career this weekend.
March 9, 2006
STATE OF THE ILLINI
The Illini head to the lonestar state with a pair of matches with nationally ranked Big 12 powers No 10 Texas on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and No. 60 Texas A&M on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The Orange and Blue are riding a three-match win streak since falling to ITA Indoor Champion Georgia in the semifinal 4-3 and boast a No. 2 ranking in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll released on Wednesday. With a straight set win against Purdue, senior All-American Ryler DeHeart tied Michael Calkins' Illinois school record of 123 career wins and will try to break that when he takes the Penick-Allison Tennis Center on Friday night against the Longhorns.
ILLINOIS vs. TEXAS
Texas owns a 7-1 advantage the series with Illinois. The Longhorns dropped the most recent meeting between both schools, falling 5-2 last season at Atkins Tennis Center.
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS
No. 10 Texas is 7-1 overall with their only loss a 5-2 decision at Duke. Two days later they won at Virginia 4-3. The Longhorns ride a five-match win streak into their match up with the Illini on Friday at their Penick-Allison Tennis Center. Head coach Michael Center is in his fifth year at the helm of the program and has three ranked players on his roster. Sophomore All-American Travis Helgeson is ranked No. 26 and seniors Callum Beale and Roger Gubser are ranked Nos. 33 and 40, respectively
ILLINOIS vs. TEXAS A&M
Illinois is 6-3 in the all-time series with Texas A&M. Illinois won the last match up 4-3 at Atkins Tennis center on Jan. 24, 2004. With the victory, the Illini broke the men's tennis school record of 21 straight home victories, which stood since the 1973 season. The victory also marked the sixth straight over the Aggies.
SCOUTING THE AGGIES
The 60th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies became one of only two teams to reach the NCAA tournament round of 16 for the sixth straight time last season. This year, they are off to a 2-4 start entering their Friday evening match up with Florida State. They then face Michigan on Saturday before taking on the Illini Sunday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. Texas A&M started the season with four straight losses, including 6-1 loss at Virginia and a 5-0 loss at Duke. Texas A&M had four doubles teams compete at the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships in La Jolla, Calif., last week. Volunteer Assistant Coach Shuon Madden and sophomore Jerry Makowski fell in the quarterfinal as well as the 21st-ranked junior tandem of Brett Joelson and Bryan Wooten. Makowski was an All-American in his rookie campaign last year and entered this week with a 10-4 singles record. Five starters return from last years lineup. In addition to Makowski, sophomore Matt Bain, senior Mohamed Dakki, Joelson and Wooten all received significant playing time on last years 17-9 team that finished the year ranked No. 18. Head coach Tim Cass is in his 18th year with the Aggies and has been an eight-time Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year.
With a 6-1, 6-2 win over Purdue's Kurt Zaske on Tuesday, March 7, Ryler DeHeart notched his 123 career singles victory, tying him with Michael Calkins' (2000-04) to become the all-time winngest singles player in Illini school history.
The Illini have taken the doubles point 11 times in 12 attempts due to the consistency of their No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe continue to shake up the collegiate tennis scene as they have gone 9-0 all at No. 1. Anderson, 6'7" and Rowe, 6'5", have knocked off four ranked teams that were all ranked inside the top 45 at the time of the match. The sophomore duo also took down the 2005 NCAA doubles champions John Isner and Antonio Ruiz of Georgia 8-6. The 37th-ranked pair of Ryler DeHeart and Ruben Gonzales have been just as consistent, amassing a 7-1 dual match record mainly at No. 2.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
Illinois moved into a tie with Pepperdine for second place in the latest Fila Collegiate rankings administered by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll released on March 7th. Georgia is in top spot and following Pepperdine and Illinois are Duke and Florida. For the first time in three years, the singles and doubles rankings are determined by a computer formula. The team rankings adopted the computerized ranking this week. Individually, Ryler DeHeart, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation for the fall season moves from No. 2 last week to No. 3. Kevin Anderson is No. 8, GD Jones is No. 54 and Ryan Rowe is No. 89. The Illini have four doubles team ranked. Anderson and Rowe are No. 5, Pramod Dabir and DeHeart are No. 13, Dabir and Brandon Davis are No. 33, DeHeart and Ruben Gonzales are No. 37.
ILLINI IN THE BIG TEN
The Illini ride a wining streak of 86 straight against conference opponents in the regular season since 1997, which includes nine regular season titles. The Orange and Blue have won eight conference tournament titles in the last nine years. The last Illini conference loss was in the 2001 Big Ten Conference tournament were the Orange and Blue dropped a 4-2 decision to Ohio State in the championship match. Illinois has won 54 consecutive conference matches since that loss.
ILLINI EARN PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARDS
Ruben Gonzales claimed back-to-back singles victories and two doubles wins against Clemson and Harvard to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors (Feb. 15) for the first time in his career just one week after GD Jones earned the accolade. GD Jones earned Player of the Week honors on Feb. 8 for his effort against Duke's top player. Jones stunned two-time All-American Ludovic Walter, then-ranked No. 9 in the nation, in a gritty three-set match in Durham, N.C. Senior Ryler DeHeart garnered his third career Big Ten Player of the Week honor on Jan. 18 for his effort at the Mexico Invitational. All four of his singles victories resulted in straight-set wins from opponents from California and Georgia Tech. In addition, he won all five of his doubles tilts.
Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana has proved to be a seventh man for the Orange and Blue in recent years. Last season, Kentucky snapped Illinois' school record 38-match win streak on April 6, but the Illini have started a new streak, winning 15 straight since the loss. The Illini have gone 133-25 (.842) at Atkins Tennis Center since it was built in 1991. Since March 30, 2002, the Illini are a remarkable 51-1 on their home court.