Brian Page and the Fighting Illini look to stay perfect in Big Ten play this weekend after a 3-0 start
March 28, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The #19 Illinois men's tennis team will hit the road for the first time in conference play as they travel to Madison and Minneapolis for Big Ten action against Wisconsin and Minnesota. First up, the Illini take on the Badgers on Friday, March 29, at 6 p.m. CT, then conclude the weekend with a Sunday, March 31, showdown vs. the Gophers at 12 p.m. CT.
The Illini shook off a three game losing skid by claiming both matches in a double-header last Saturday, beating Vincennes 54-12 before defeating Nebraska 7-0. Thus, the Orange and Blue jump to 9-6 overall and undefeated in Big Ten play at 3-0.
The Illini enjoy a series advantage on both conference foes this weekend, as they are 53-29 against the Badgers and 38-31 against the Gophers. In addition, head coach Brad Dancer has seen great success against the two squads, losing a combined three times against the two in his seven seasons at Illinois. Last season, the Illini defeated Wisconsin 6-1 and Minnesota 4-2.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
Wisconsin is off to 10-5 start, including a 1-2 conference record. In addition, the Illini will be walking into a tough environment, for Wisconsin is 10-2 at home this year, only suffering defeats to Notre Dame and #21 Clemson. The Badgers started Big Ten play on the right note, defeating Minnesota 4-3 on Feb. 23. However, Wisconsin is currently on a three match losing streak, dropping to Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina State.
In singles play, Wisconsin's Alexander Kostanov is enjoying the best spring so far. The senior started 2013 11-0 but has lost his last three matches. When playing in the number four slot, Kostanov is 7-0. Furthermore, expect Billy Bertha in the number one singles position where he has a 4-8 mark, 4-10 overall.
In doubles, Alexander Kokorev and Peter Satral are 7-1 and 3-0 in conference competition as the duo mainly plays in the number two position. In addition, Jakhongir Jalalov and Oskar Wikberg are 6-2 when playing in their customary number three doubles slot.
The Golden Gophers have started 6-8 overall with a 2-1 Big Ten record. After being dealt a 4-3 loss by Wisconsin, Minnesota bounced back to claim victories over Michigan State and Michigan last weekend. In fact, the Gophers have won three of their last four, their best stretch of 2013.
Rok Bonin and Leandro Toledo have combined to record 32 singles victories this season, both playing in either the number one or two positions. Bonin has seen the better success at number one, obtaining a 6-4 mark and 2-2 record vs. nationally ranked foes. Meanwhile, Toledo has thrived in the two slot, compiling a 7-2 record.
Toledo, along with Eric Frueh, are off to a 3-0 start in doubles play in conference competition. In addition, Bonin and Juan Pablo Ramirez are 2-0 in Big Ten doubles with a 4-1 overall mark as a duo.
In the March 26 poll, the Illini remained in the #19 position. Freshman Jared Hiltzik dropped two spots to #42 in the new singles rankings. In addition, the red hot doubles team of sophomores Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon have climbed the new doubles charts to the #22 spot.
The Fighting Illini are off to yet another great start to Big Ten play, accumulating a 3-0 mark heading into this weekend's matches. In fact, the Orange and Blue have amassed two 7-0 shutouts in that span as well. In addition, Illinois has typically started conference well under Coach Dancer, starting at least 3-0 in now seven of his eight seasons at the helm.
The team's number one doubles tandem of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski jumped the new ITA doubles rankings to No. 22 in the country, up 14 spots from the last poll. The duo is enjoying a seven match win streak that includes a 3-0 record against doubles teams ranked in the Top-25. Recently, Kopinski/Guignon scored a huge win over the No. 2 doubles team in the nation in Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger, winning 8-4.
A PEEK AHEAD
The Fighting Illini continue their two-week Big Ten road trip on April 6 & 7 when they invade the state of Michigan to battle the Wolverines and the Spartans. Then Illinois returns home for two weeks for matches against Ohio State, Penn State and Indiana.