Illinois Slated for Three Matches in Five Days
April 1, 2014
THE WEEK AHEAD
The 11th ranked Illini men's tennis team has quite the busy week ahead. Illinois will conclude its six match road trip Wednesday when they take on No. 14 Kentucky in Lexington at 1 p.m. CT. They will then resume Big Ten play at home when they welcome Michigan and Michigan State. The Spartans are up first on Friday, April 4, at 3 p.m. CT, followed by the Wolverines on Sunday, April 6, at Noon.
Four is the key number for Tim Kopinski at this point in the season. The junior is 4-0 in Big Ten play, has won four straight matches and has suffered only four dual match losses this spring.
Farris Gosea is tied with Kopinski for the most singles victories at 14. Gosea is 7-2 against top-50 ranked foes in his junior campaign.
Blake Bazarnik is also in double digit victories with 12 of his own. The junior is 7-2 in his last 10 matches.
Kopinski and Ross Guignon are certainly hitting their stride in terms of doubles. The duo are 11-2 this spring and the winners of eight straight. In fact, the Illinois pairing have won its last four against top-30 ranked doubles teams.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Kentucky enters the matchup with a 14-6 overall record and a 7-2 mark in the SEC. The Wildcats have played well at home with a 9-1 record, losing only to Notre Dame. Kentucky is just 2-2 in its last four matches, all played on the road. The Wildcats lost to Georgia and Alabama while securing victories against Tennessee and Auburn.
Kentucky is once again led by Tom Jomby. The senior is is ranked 11th in singles with a 15-3 record. Rounding out the ranked singles players are Alejandro Gomez at No. 85 and Beck Pennington at No. 90. Gomez is 4-4 at No. 2 singles while 5-0 in the No. 3 slot, while Pennington has mostly played No. 3 singles, accumulating a 6-2 mark.
In doubles, Jomby and partner Kevin Lai rank 31st in the country. The duo are 8-5 this spring.
The Spartans are 8-10 overall. After starting 0-3 in the conference, Michigan State has rebounded with two straights wins over Nebraska and Iowa. Working in the Illini's favor is the fact that MSU is 0-8 on the road this year.
Michigan State has no ranked singles or doubles players. Brett Forman leads the squad in dual match victories with 11. Drew Lied has played the majority of the team matches at No. 1 singles, posting a 6-8 record in that spot. Also expect to see Aaron Pfister at No. 2 singles, where the senior has recorded a 8-4 record.
The Wolverines are 11-8 overall, 3-2 in the conference and 2-2 on the road. After starting March with a 3-4 record, Michigan fought back last weekend with a 5-2 win over Iowa and a 7-0 shutout vs. Nebraska.
Michigan's lone ranked singles player is No. 115 Alex Petrone. The junior has posted a 9-9 dual record this spring with a 2-3 Big Ten mark. Justin Rossi currently boasts the best spring record at 11-5, the winner of his last five matches.
At No. 24, Alex Buzzi and Barrett Franks boasts the highest doubles ranking. The duo are 5-8 in the No. 1 spot and have yet to win a Big Ten doubles match, at 0-3.
Illinois has a one match lead in the all-time series vs. Kentucky, sporting a 14-13 record. Last season, Illinois upset No. 7 Kentucky, 4-3, at home.
The Illini hold a 54-28 advantage over the Spartans. In fact, Illinois has won 20 straight matches against Michigan State, last losing to MSU in spring 1997.
Finally, the Orange and Blue are down in the overall series vs. Michigan, 34-62-3. They'll look to avenge a 5-2 loss from last season in Ann Arbor.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
April 1 meant a new ITA team poll which witnessed the Fighting Illini drop one spot to No. 11. Illinois started the year with a preseason rank of 22 before rising all the way to a season best No. 6 on March 4.
In doubles, Kopinski and Ross Guignon stayed at their career high No. 3 ranking. In addition, Farris Gosea and Alex Jesse were recognized for their limited yet successful 4-0 stint together, ranked 59th in the country. Lastly, if Jesse pairs with Hiltzik, they are ranked 77th in doubles.
Speaking of doubles, the Illini have found success in that aspect of the game after struggling at the beginning of the year. After losing six straight doubles decisions in late January/early February, Illinois rebounded by claiming eight of their last 10 doubles points.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The Atkins Tennis Center has provided quite the home court advantage for the Illini this spring. The Orange and Blue have started 7-0 at home, including ranked wins against #16 Notre Dame, #10 Texas and #8 Texas A&M.
A LOOK AHEAD
After this week's matches, the Illini hit the Big Ten road once more. The Orange and Blue travel to Iowa City on April 11 to face Iowa at 3 p.m. CT. Then, Illinois makes its way to Lincoln to square off against Nebraska on April 13 at Noon.