Senior Ryan Rowe and the Illini continue non-conference action against No. 29 TCU on Wednesday.
March 10, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 7 Illinois men's tennis team remains inside the friendly confines of the Atkins Tennis Center this week as it takes on non-conference and 29th-ranked TCU on Wednesday, March 12, for a 6 p.m. match in Urbana, Ill. TCU, a team that opened the season a perfect 9-0 to start, has stumbled a bit in its last four outings, going 2-2. On the other hand, Illinois has won its last four straight at home and kicked off the Big Ten season a perfect 2-0 after going a combined 13-1 against conference foes Michigan State (6-1) and Purdue (7-0). Admission into the match is FREE.
Illinois brings an 8-4 mark into the matchup, while TCU is 10-2 overall heading into its match against No. 62-ranked Wisconsin on Monday, March 10, before traveling to Illinois on Wednesday.
Fans are encouraged to come dressed in their best costumes this Wednesday, as a prize will be given out to the top Illini fan at the TCU vs. Illinois match. There also will be a free t-shirt toss in between doubles and singles.
Live scoring is offered for all of Illinois' home matches, while a full recap of the dual will be available at the conclusion of the contest. Both features can be found at the official web site of Illinois men's tennis, www.fightingillini.com, by clicking on the men's tennis home page.
Illinois heads into the dual this Wednesday with a No. 7 ranking in the most recent ITA Men's Tennis Poll released on March 4. Illinois is on a three-match win streak since Feb. 29 with wins against No. 65 Michigan State, No. 12 Notre Dame and most recently Purdue this past weekend. Illinois now takes a break from conference action to face No. 29 TCU (10-2) at home on Wednesday, followed by taking on 2006 NCAA Champion Pepperdine next Wednesday, March 19, in Malibu, Calif.
On the court, seniors No. 14-ranked Ryan Rowe (18-11) and No. 92-ranked Ruben Gonzales (8-6) head the Illini lineup in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, respectively. Sophomore and No. 84-ranked Billy Heiser (17-9) fills the No. 3 singles slot. No. 20 Rowe and Heiser (15-4) take up the duties at No. 1 doubles, followed by the 21st-ranked tandem of senior Brandon Davis and Gonzales at the No. 2 slot with a 9-3 record on the year to round out the top of the lineup for the Illini.
The Illinois men's tennis team, after starting the season with one of the hardest schedules in the country - including 10 straight ranked opponents - have tested their legs and come out on top against tough foes. In fact, four Illini are currently holding singles winning streaks of three-or-more, including senior Ruben Gonzales (3-straight), Ryan Rowe (3-straight; 5 of last 6), sophomore Billy Heiser (6-straight, 8 of last 9) and freshman Waylon Chin (3-straight, 5 of last 7).
In doubles, the tandem of senior Brandon Davis and Gonzales have won three straight, including taking 10 of their last 12. Before this current streak, the duo won four straight from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, which included downing No. 1 Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey of Virginia, 9-7. Joining the duo is Heiser and Rowe, who have nabbed two straight and won six of their last eight contests.
GONZALES BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK, AGAIN
Senior Ruben Gonzales earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the week ending March 3, the conference office announced on Tuesday, March 4. Gonzales earned his second honor of 2008 after previously garnering the distinction for the week ending Jan. 28. The Illini senior grabbed the distinction after teaming with senior Brandon Davis to go 3-0 in doubles action and 3-0 in singles to help Illinois win its league opener over No. 65 Michigan State on Feb. 29 before upsetting then-No. 12 Notre Dame on March 1. The honor is Gonzales' third of his career.
In his victories, Gonzales helped Illinois hand the Fighting Irish their first loss to a Big Ten team this season, as Notre Dame entered the match a perfect 5-0 prior to the setback. The Terre Haute, Ind., native also helped UI card its 11th straight Big Ten opening win with their demolishing of Michigan State on Friday.
A staple in the Illini lineup for years - and 2008 is no exception - has been their play in doubles. Illinois has swept the doubles point three times this season (Ball State, No. 17 LSU, Purdue), is 3-0 when sweeping all three matches and has won the point a total of 10 out of 12 times this season.
Overall, Illinois is 0-2 when it drops the point and 8-2 when winning doubles. Illinois' team result by specific doubles positions is 6-1 when winning at No. 1, 8-3 when winning at No. 2 and 5-1 when winning at No. 3.
BIG TEN OR ILLINI COUNTRY?
Since Illinois stormed onto the tennis scene as one of the powerhouses of collegiate men's tennis in the early '90s, the Illini have reined atop the standings of the Big Ten Conference as well.
When legendary head coach Craig Tiley officially took over the program in 1993, the Illini followed with a runner-up finish in 1996, its highest since 1984. Then came Illinois supremacy, as it won the league championship a record nine straight years from 1995-05, losing only three regular season contests and winning 83 straight regular season matches in the process. Tiley's Big Ten crown total is one short of matching the amount of titles Illinois garnered in a 60-plus year span when it won its first in 1914 and its 10th in 1946. Tiley accomplished his feat in only 12 years of coaching.
And now, since head coach Brad Dancer took over the program in 2005, that fact has not changed. In fact, the Illini have lost only three regular season duals under Dancer's leadership, those coming against two different teams (Ohio State and Michigan). After Illinois' match against Purdue, Illinois is 19-3 overall in the Big Ten under Dancer, including four straight regular season contests dating back to April 21, 2007.
HORNED FROGS PREVIEW
TCU returns three letterwinners from last year's squad and is led by senior Cosmin Cotet (9-2), who is ranked No. 21 nationally. Adrian Simon (7-4) and Zach Nichols (11-0) are ranked No. 115 and No. 122, respectively, and are two of six freshmen that have made an immediate impact for the Frogs. Also making an impression for the Frogs is junior Kriegler Brink with an impressive 10-0 record to start of the year. With such a young team, the Horned Frogs still have managed to accumulate an 10-2 record on the season heading into their match against Wisconsin on Monday night, and then Illinois on Wednesday.
The Horned Frogs, though just outside of the top 25, are a tough team and have taken down their share of ranked opponents, including No. 31 Texas Tech, No. 66 Minnesota and most recently No. 35 Oklahoma. Their only losses were to No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Texas A&M. TCU actually opened the season 9-0 before stumbling in their most recent stretch of four matches, posting a 2-2 record during that span.
The top doubles duo of Cotet and Brink for TCU currently hold a record of 7-2 and are the Horned Frogs most potent threat in their doubles lineup. The Frogs have only lost the doubles point once, that coming against No. 15 Oklahoma State.
ILLINOIS vs. TCU HISTORY
Illinois does not have own many losing records to any team in the country, but TCU does in fact hold a slim 3-2 advantage in the short series over the Illini. In their sixth all-time meeting, Illinois looks to even that series and extend its streak over TCU to three straight. Illinois has won both of its prior meetings between the two teams in 1997 and 1998, prevailing 4-3 in '97 and 4-1 in '98 in a tournament setting in Montgomery, Ala., both years.
ILLINOIS' RECORD BY SINGLES POSITION
Winning at No. 1 Singles: 6-0
Losing at No. 1 Singles: 1-4
Winning at No. 2 Singles: 7-1
Losing at No. 2 Singles: 1-3
Winning at No. 3 Singles: 7-1
Losing at No. 3 Singles: 1-3
Winning at No. 4 Singles: 4-1
Losing at No. 4 Singles: 4-2
Winning at No. 5 Singles: 7-1
Losing at No. 5 Singles: 0-3
Winning at No. 6 Singles: 5-1
Losing at No. 6 Singles: 3-2
Illinois goes on the road in its next outing to have a non-conference showdown against 2006 NCAA champion and 22nd-ranked Pepperdine on Wednesday, March 19. The match is slated for a 2 p.m. CT start, noon PT, at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center in Malibu, Calif.