Illinois Ready for #5 Ohio State & Penn State
April 11, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's tennis team is back in action at Atkins Tennis Center this weekend welcoming #5 Ohio State on Friday, April 12 at 3 p.m. CT before hosting Penn State on Sunday, April 14, at 12 p.m. CT.
Illinois returns home after a four game Big Ten road trip in which the Orange and Blue went 2-2, obtaining victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State but falling to Minnesota and Michigan. As a result, the Illini are now 5-2 in conference play and are tied for third with Indiana and the Gophers in the Big Ten Standings.
Meanwhile the Buckeyes sit atop the standings with an unblemished 7-0 mark, while Penn State is tied for ninth at 2-5. The Illini hold the series advantage in both match-ups, leading 57-40-1 vs. Ohio State and an impressive 26-3 against Penn State. Interesting to note, the last time the Buckeyes and Illini squared off, the Orange and Blue were holding up the Big Ten Tournament championship trophy. Lastly, Illinois has not lost to the Nittany Lions since the 1995 season.
The Illini and Ohio State last met on the grand stage of the Big Ten Tournament Championship match, where the Orange and Blue secured a dramatic 4-3 comeback over the third-ranked Buckeyes. The victory snapped Ohio State's 92-match winning streak against Big Ten teams and ended OSU's six-year reign as tournament champs. It also marked the first win over the Buckeyes since 2007.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
The #5 Buckeyes have played great tennis in 2013, accumulating a 24-2 record. They're undefeated in conference play at 7-0 and boast a 6-1 away record. Ohio State's only two losses have come at the hands of then #15 Texas A&M and #1 Virginia. On the flip side, the Buckeyes' key victories this year have come against #6 Georgia and #5 Pepperdine. In conference competition, Ohio State has garnered six shutouts in their seven victories.
Illinois will have to deal with #9 Blaz Rola, who just picked up his fourth Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week honor. Rola is 19-0 overall in singles, including a 14-0 mark at the No. 1 position. In addition, Rola has yet to drop a doubles match as well, currently 21-0, mainly playing in the No. 3 slot.
However the most wins on the team in dual matches belongs to #84 Devin McCarthy (20-2) and #63 Connor Smith (20-3). McCarthy is undefeated in Big Ten play and 15-2 when playing No. 3 singles, while Smith primarily plays the No. 4 where he is 12-2. The honor of playing the No. 1 position in doubles belongs to Peter Kobelt and Connor Smith who are 13-1 in that slot.
Next is Penn State who is 8-12 overall and 2-5 in Big Ten action. The Nittany Lions are fresh off of a 4-2 win over Wisconsin and will play at Northwestern on April 12. However, for their last four victories, Penn State has followed said win with two straight losses.
Russell Bader (14-6), Tomas Hanzlik (12-8) and Matt Barry (11-5) spearhead the Nittany Lions in singles competition. Hanzlik is 5-0 at the No. 3 position, Bader is 7-2 at No. 4 and Barry is 9-1 at No. 6. Lastly, Bader and Guanhua Chen primarily play No. 1 doubles for Penn State where they have amassed a 5-6 record.
In the April 9 ITA poll, both Illini singles and doubles players jumped up the charts. Freshman Jared Hiltzik climbed to #36 in singles while Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon are now #19 as a doubles team, a career high for the sophomore duo. Furthermore, Kopinski also ranks with Farris Gosea in doubles, checking in at #76.
Ohio State will bring five ranked singles players to the table on Friday. Peter Kobelt leads off at #6 followed by #9 Blaz Rola, #61 Chris Diaz, #63 Connor Smith and #84 Devin McCarthy. The Buckeyes also have three ranked doubles pairings: #16 Kobelt/Smith, #32 McCarthy/Ille Van Engelen and #33 Rola/Metka.
A Friday matchup can only mean one thing…Flapjack Friday is back! Free pancakes for all fans in attendance for the Illinois vs Ohio State match. In addition, it is Silver Mine Sub Sandwich Day in which there will be free subs for all U of I students, including a sub eating contest.
Then, two days later, it's Sunday Sundaes where free ice-cream is given for all fans. Team Tailgate Day will also be taking place so make sure to head out early to tailgate before the match, lots open at 11 a.m. CT. You can also meet Coach Dancer and register for a tour of the Atkins Tennis Facility.
A PEEK AHEAD
The Illini will play their final regular season home contest on Friday, April 19, when they battle Indiana at 3 p.m. CT.