Men's Tennis
#6 Illini Set to Host College Match Day Friday vs. Pepperdine

Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon are ranked No. 3 in doubles
Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon are ranked No. 3 in doubles

March 12, 2014

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The Fighting Illini men's tennis team has quite the busy and eventful weekend ahead. First up is a doubleheader on Friday, March 14, at the Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Ill. The Orange and Blue will host the University of South Florida at 11 a.m. CT before competing against Pepperdine at 6 p.m. CT as part of the College MatchDay Series. Illinois will then immediately fly out to Indian Wells, Calif. to take on No. 12 Baylor on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.  

First developed in 2013, College MatchDay is a weekly series that highlights marquee team matches and features the best programs, players and coaches from around the country. Twenty-two matches on 18 different campuses will be showcased in 2014, 11 of which were chosen to be delivered by ESPN3. Thus, if you can't make it out to Atkins Friday night, be sure to go on to to watch it live. Kevin Corke and Mark Bey will be on the call. 

In addition, the Illini were one of eight schools to be chosen for the Fan Experience trailer as well. The 53-foot interactive trailer will be parked on site and give fans a hands-on and virtual look into the world of tennis. 

Fans also don't need to worry about food for hot dogs and cotton candy will be available. There will also be a face painting station and free College MatchDay hats will be distributed. Festivities for the event begin at 4:30 p.m. CT. 

Every match on ESPN3 will follow a unique, experimental format, as proposed by an advisory group of NCAA Division I athletic directors, in which all six singles matches will be played first, with a best-of-three tiebreak sets format.

Each singles match will be worth one point toward the team total, with four points required to win the team match. Once one team reaches four points and clinches the match, the remaining matches will not be completed. In the case of a 3-3 tie after the singles matches, three doubles matches - played using 10-point super tiebreaks - will be used to determine the winner in what amounts to college tennis' version of "overtime." The team that wins two of the three doubles matches wins the team match.

The sixth ranked Illini enter this weekend's contest with a 9-4 overall record. Illinois is the winner of three straight as they look to achieve a season high of four consecutive wins on Friday morning when they square off against South Florida. The Orange and Blue are also off to a great start in conference play (2-0) as they are tied for first with Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. Illinois has defeated No. 23 Northwestern and Purdue. 

Farris Gosea continues his best start to a season in his three-year career. The junior is 10-2 this spring dual season, the winner of four straight matches and has compiled a 5-1 mark against singles foes ranked in the top-50. Gosea has recently filled in for Jared Hiltzik at the No. 1 singles position, where he has accomplished a 3-0 mark. 

Both Blake Bazarnik and Tim Kopinski have been the winners of three straight matches. Kopinski is 8-3 this spring, primarily playing in the No. 3 slot where he has gone 6-2. Kopinski has already achieved some key victories, knocking off then No. 13 Jeremy Efferding of Texas A&M and No. 24 George Goldhoff of Texas. Bazarnik has also achieved eights wins (8-2), playing both the No. 3 and 4 positions. The Illini are 9-1 this season when the No. 3 singles position has emerged victorious. 

Farris Gosea picked up his second straight Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week award on Tuesday, March 11, also the second in his career. It marked the fourth weekly conference honor for the Illini as both Tim Kopinski (Feb. 11) and Jared Hiltzik (Jan. 21) have previously won. Thus, Illinois outnumbers any other Big Ten school in the conference weekly award as Ohio State sits in second place with two.  

The March 11 ITA poll kept the Fighting Illini deadlocked at the No. 6 position. Illinois started the year with a preseason rank of 22.    

Jared Hiltzik inched back closer to his career high singles ranking of No. 4 this week, moving one position to No. 7. Hiltzik is 6-3 overall this spring with a 4-2 mark against top-100 ranked opponents. Gosea's climb up the charts continued yet again this week, jumping from No. 23 to No. 17. Gosea started the season ranked 106th. Tim Kopinski suffered a slight drop in his singles ranking, sliding to 42nd in the country. The junior's season high is No. 24. 

In doubles, Kopinski and Ross Guignon accomplished a career high No. 3 ranking this week. Meanwhile, Hiltzik and Jesse check in at No. 48.

The Illini have built quite the home court advantage at the Atkins Tennis Center, off to a 5-0 start at home this year. In their home-opening week, the Illini knocked off three top-16 opponents in five days, defeating No. 16 Notre Dame 5-2, No. 8 Texas A&M 4-1 and No. 10 Texas 4-3. The Illini then swept a doubleheader on March 9, downing Purdue and Detroit Mercy. In the last five years, the Illini are 45-12 at home. 

The Illini have recently gained momentum in doubles play after struggling early in the season. The Orange and Blue started off the year with obtaining the early 1-0 advantage over Clemson, but then lost the next six straight doubles points. Illinois has since rebounded by winning the last five of six doubles point opportunities. 

Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon continue to lead by example. The duo are 8-2 this spring and the winners of five straight. The Illinois pairing have won four of its five matches against top-25 ranked teams. Farris Gosea has recently formed a new team with Alex Jesse, with the switch occurring March 2 at Northwestern. The result is a 2-0 start for the team. 

The Orange and Blue have competed in 13 matches thus far, including nine against top-25 ranked opponents. Illinois is off to a great start, accumulating a 6-3 mark against the ranked foes. The Illini have knocked off No. 25 Clemson, No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 10 Texas, No. 15 Pepperdine and No. 23 Northwestern.

South Florida has compiled an 8-3 mark to start 2014. It's been an up and down season for the Bulls, starting the year with five straight wins, before dropping three straight. However, USF will enter Friday's contest the winner of three straight, picking up wins vs. Tulane, South Alabama and UNC-Wilmington. The Illini have played the Bulls just once in the all-time series, falling 5-2 back in 1993. 

Roberto Cid is the top singles player for the USF as the sophomore is ranked 65th in the country in singles. In doubles, Cid and Sasha Gozun are ranked 24th while Oliver Pramming and Ignacio Gonzalez-Muniz are ranked 69th.

Pepperdine enters Friday's contest with a 9-7 overall mark and are 3-1 on the road. The Waves are just 2-2 in March. They started the month with back to back losses vs. USC and TCU but rebounded with wins over Furman and Hawaii on March 11. 

Illinois previously met Pepperdine on Feb. 15 at the National Indoor Championships where the Illini walked away with a 4-0 shutout. After claiming the doubles point, Tim Kopinski, Brian Page and Ross Guignon clinched the match in singles. Pepperdine was ranked 15th in the country at that time and has since fallen out of the top-25 rankings. Illinois is 7-5 against Pepperdine all-time 

The Waves are led by Alex Sarkissian who is 9-3 overall. Sarkissian is ranked 27th in singles and is 4-3 in his last 10 matches. David Sofaer also possesses a national ranking, checking in at No. 115. The senior is 6-6 this spring. In doubles, Sarkissian and Francis Alcantara are ranked 15th.  

Baylor checks in this week with a No. 12 national ranking. The Bears are 8-4 overall and 1-2 on neutral courts. Baylor started the year at 7-0 before losing four of its last five. However, their four losses came against three top-10 ranked teams in Oklahoma, USC and Virginia. The Illini are 4-3 against Baylor all-time and the winner of two-straight. 

Baylor boasts three players ranked in the top-35 in No. 8 Julian Lenz, No. 15 Patrick Pradella and No. 31 Diego Galeano. Lenz is 8-1 this spring with a 5-1 mark at the No. 1 singles position. Pradella is 3-4 in dual matches while Galeano is 6-4. Baylor possesses no ranked teams in doubles.