#12 Illinois Seeks Big Ten Tournament Championship
April 23, 2014
THE WEEKEND AHEAD
The 12th ranked Fighting Illini men's tennis team depart for East Lansing, Mich. to compete in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament, hosted by the Michigan State Spartans. The four day event starting on Thursday, April 24, will be held at the MSU Outdoor Courts if weather permits. The championship match will be broadcast on tape delay by the Big Ten Network on May 8 at 6 p.m. CT.
Illinois earned the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament after finishing with a 9-2 conference record. The Illini's only two losses came at the hands of regular season champion Ohio State and the lineup dispute against Penn State. The Orange and Blue will jumpstart their tournament on Friday at 1 p.m. CT, when they play the winner of the seven-ten seeded matchup between Minnesota and Indiana.
Currently, three Illini boast winning streaks of six or greater. Farris Gosea possesses the highest streak on the team with nine. The junior went undefeated in Big Ten play at 10-0 and is 20-3 overall in dual matches. Jared Hiltzik has settled back into the top of the lineup, winning seven straight. Hiltzik has five wins against ranked foes this spring. Finally, Blake Bazarnik has tallied six consecutive wins to go along with his 18-5 dual match record.
Tim Kopinski has the second highest win total on the team with a 19-5 record. The junior only suffered one loss in conference play (8-1), losing to Nebraska's Tom Blackwell.
Blake Bazarnik has also come on strong at the end of the regular season. The junior has won four straight and is 7-1 in the No. 4 singles position. Finally, Alex Jesse has seen some playing time in the lineup in the previous four contests, where the sophomore went 3-0.
BIG TEN STANDINGS
Ohio State clinched the regular season Big Ten championship last weekend and went unblemished in the conference at 11-0, marking the Buckeyes' ninth straight title. The Fighting Illini came in second with a 9-2 record followed closely by Penn State (8-3), Purdue (7-4) and Northwestern (7-4).
The Orange and Blue are surging into the postseason on a season high seven match win streak. It marks the longest winning streak since the 2009 season in which Dancer's Illini compiled eight consecutive victories. More impressively, the Illini's current streak has been executed in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents 33-8 in that span. In fact, Illinois has not surrendered more than one point since April 6 vs. Michigan.
The Illini have claimed the doubles point in 13 of its 27 regular season matches this spring. Illinois is 11-2 when they win doubles and 7-4 when they drop the early 1-0 advantage. The fifth ranked doubles team of Kopinski and Guignon are 14-4 in dual matches and went 8-1 in Big Ten play. In addition, Kopinski/Guignon are 4-2 against top-25 ranked doubles teams.
LAST TIME OUT VS MINNESOTA/INDIANA
Illinois just wrapped up the regular season vs. Minnesota, defeating the Gophers 5-1 at home. The Illini dropped the doubles point but rebounded with strong singles play, picking up victories on every court except No. 4 which went unfinished.
Minnesota earned the No. 7 seed after a 5-6 finish in the conference. They are led by No. 42 Leandro Toledo, who is 17-6 in dual matches. Meanwhile, Mathieu Froment and Jack Hamburg are ranked 27th in doubles, thanks to a 13-2 record this spring.
On March 23, Illinois shutout Indiana 7-0 in Bloomington. After courts one and two clinched the doubles point, Gosea, Kopinski, Childers and Jesse all recorded straight set victories in singles, with Bazarnik and Guignon completing the sweep in three sets.
Indiana earned the No. 10 seed after posting a 3-8 record in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are led by No. 113 Sam Monette, who is 14-9 in dual matches. Monette is also ranked in doubles, where he and Daniel Bednarczyk are ranked 53rd with a 17-6 record.
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT HISTORY
Last year, Illinois entered as the No. 4 seed, receiving a first round bye. They defeated Northwestern 4-2 in the quarterfinals before bowing out 4-0 to top-seed and host Ohio State. In 2012, the Illini upset No. 3 Ohio State in Evanston, winning its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005 and ending OSU's six year reign.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
Despite the lllini's seven match win streak, the ITA dropped the Orange and Blue two spots in the April 22 poll to No. 12 in the country. The Illini started the year ranked No. 22 before peaking at No. 6 on March 4.
Jared Hiltzik's remains deadlocked at No. 8 in singles. Not too far off is Farris Gosea, who checks in this week at No. 17. Lastly, Tim Kopinski rounds out the ranked singles competitors at No. 56. In doubles, Kopinski and Ross Guignon landed in the No. 5 spot this week, while Gosea and Alex Jesse just cracked the poll at No. 90.
The Illini have developed quite the 1-2-3 punch in the 2014 season, utilizing its three ranked singles players #8 Jared Hiltzik, #17 Farris Gosea and #56 Tim Kopinski. The trio has collectively won their singles matches and were responsible for 14 of the 20 Illinois victories in the regular season. In fact, the No. 1-3 singles positions are a combined 60-13 overall this year. Finally, it's important to not overlook the No. 4 singles position as well. Whenever an Illini whens at No. 4, the Orange and Blue are 12-0.