#9 Illinois Resumes Big Ten Play at Indiana Sunday
March 21, 2014
THE WEEKEND AHEAD
The ninth ranked Fighting Illini men's tennis team will resume Big Ten play on March 23 while also competing in its third straight week with a doubleheader. Illinois will start Sunday in Bloomington vs. Indiana at 11 a.m. CT, then travel to Indianapolis to take on Ball State at 5 p.m. CT.
A QUICK GLANCE BACK
On March 14, the Illini shutout Pepperdine for the second time this season, but this time in front of a standing room only crowd at the Atkins Tennis Center. Earlier in the day, the Orange and Blue also knocked off USF 4-1. Tim Kopinski, Blake Bazarnik and Ross Guignon all went 2-0 in singles last Friday. Illinois then traveled out to California to battle then ranked No. 12 Baylor, and were shutout 4-0 for the first time in 2014.
Illinois enters Sunday's doubleheader with an 11-5 overall mark. They'll look to remain undefeated in Big Ten play, starting the year with dominant wins over Northwestern and Purdue. The Orange and Blue will also look to improve upon their 1-2 record away from home. The Illini had won five straight before falling to Baylor last weekend.
Farris Gosea leads this year's squad with the most dual match victories, boasting an 11-3 mark. Gosea is 4-1 at No. 1 singles and 6-2 at the No. 2 position. The Cardiff, Whales, native is also 6-2 against nationally ranked foes in the top-50 this year.
Both Blake Bazarnik and Tim Kopinski join Gosea with double digit singles victories. Bazarnik is the hottest player on the team right now, the winner of five straight matches. The junior is also 7-1 in the team's last 10 matches. Kopinski had won five straight before falling to Baylor's Patrick Pradella.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Indiana enters the conference matchup after dropping a road match to Texas Tech, 4-2, on March 16. The Hoosiers have lost 7 of its last nine, thus dropping to a 9-10 overall mark. IU has opened conference competition with two losses, falling to Northwestern and Ohio State.
Sam Monette is Indiana's lone ranked singles player, checking in at No. 61. The sophomore is 10-7 in dual matches and has been the recipient of four consecutive losses. Daniel Bednarczyk has the most wins on the squad with a 13-5 mark, with 10 of those wins coming at the No. 3 singles position. Dimitrije Tasic rounds out the players in double figures at 10-8 this spring.
Monette and Bednarczyk join forces for doubles where the duo is ranked 44th in the country. The IU pairing is 12-4 and the winner of five straight.
Ball State also enters Sunday coming off of a loss, having dropped a 4-2 decision to UNLV on March 15. Ball State (7-8) has faced two ranked opponents this season, losing to Notre Dame and Vanderbilt on the road.
The Cardinals do not possess any ranked singles or doubles teams. Patrick Elliot leads the group with a 9-3 record. The junior is 3-1 at No. 1 singles and 6-2 in the No. 2 slot. Ray Leonard follows right behind with a 7-8 mark, while also playing in the top-two positions. Leonard is the lone player to face a ranked foe (0-1).
The Illini will look to continue its path to a winning record in the all-time series against the Hoosiers. Illinois is 42-44 lifetime vs. Indiana. Last season, Illinois claimed a 6-1 victory on senior day against the neighbor state rival.
The Orange and Blue have compiled an 18-8 all-time record against Ball State. The Illini earned a hard fought 4-3 neutral court win over the Cardinals in 2013. Illinois has won 17 straight against BSU.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The March 18 ITA poll saw the Fighting Illini drop three spots to the No. 9 position. Illinois started the year with a preseason rank of 22 before rising all the way to a season best No. 6 on March 4.
Singles and doubles ranking will not be updated until March 25. Thus, Jared Hiltzik remained locked in at No. 7 in the country. Hiltzik is 6-3 overall this spring with a 4-2 mark against top-100 ranked opponents. Farris Gosea remains at his career high No. 17 ranking while Tim Kopinski is locked in at No. 42.
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 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 16 matches thus far, including ten against top-25 ranked opponents. Illinois is off to a solid start, accumulating a 6-4 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.
BIG TEN TENNIS ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Farris Gosea picked up his second straight Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week award on 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) had previously won. Thus, Illinois outnumbers any other Big Ten school in the conference weekly award as Ohio State sits in second place with three.
The Illini will continue Big Ten action the following weekend as they remain on the road to take on Penn State and Ohio State. They'll square off against the Nittany Lions at 2 p.m. CT on March 28, then travel to Columbus for a premier showdown against the No. 2 Buckeyes.