Illini Look to Defend Tournament Title
April 26, 2013
The University of Illinois men's tennis team travels east to Columbus to compete at the 2013 Big Ten Tournament, hosted by Ohio State, April 25-28. The Fighting Illini finished the regular season with an 8-3 conference record to earn the No. 4 seed and a first round bye to Friday's quarterfinal round, where they will square off with fifth-seed Northwestern at 10 a.m. CT. The winner of that match will play at 8:30 a.m. CT on Saturday, followed by the championship match on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.
During the action on Thursday, No. 5 Northwestern defeated No. 12 Iowa 4-1, No. 9 Purdue downed No. 8 Wisconsin 4-0, No. 7 MIchigan State beat No. 10 Nebraska 4-3, while No. 6 Indiana defeated No. 11 Penn State 4-2.
Along with No. 4 Illinois, each of the top-four teams received first-round byes, including top-seeded Ohio State, No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 Michigan. Friday's action will feature matchups between Ohio State vs. Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan State, and Michigan vs. Indiana.
BIG TEN IN THE RANKINGS
Host Ohio State currently reigns supreme, ranked No. 4 in the nation. Michigan is the only other Big Ten school ranked in the top 25 at No. 23. Minnesota, who also had a first round bye, checks in at No. 36, while the Illini hold the No. 29 spot.
In singles, the Buckeyes once again claim the top spot, as Peter Kobelt ranks No. 9 in the country, followed by Blaz Rola at No. 12. The Illini's own Jared Hiltzik is the next highest ranked player at No. 31.
However, Illinois can brag about having the highest ranked doubles tandem in the conference as Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon check in at the No. 13 spot. Peter Kobelt and Connor Smith of Ohio State are in hot pursuit, right behind the Illinois duo at No. 14. Furthermore, Sam Monette and Isade Juneau from Indiana round out the top 25 in doubles.
2012 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT RECAP
The third-seed Illini kicked out the 2012 Big Ten Tennis Tournament by cruising past Northwestern and Michigan in the opening rounds with a pair of 4-0 shutouts to advance to the title match, where they squared off with No. 3 Ohio State. The 24th-ranked Illini then stunned the top-seeded Buckeyes in a thrilling 4-3 comeback to snap OSU's 92-match winning streak against teams in the Big Ten and its six-year reign as tournament champions. The victory ended Illinois' seven-year drought without a title and marked its first win over Ohio State since 2007.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Illini currently sit in the No. 29 position in the latest Campbell/ITA rankings, which were released April 23. Freshman Jared Hiltzik held steady at the No. 31 slot in singles, while Illinois now boasts three ranked doubles teams. First up is the sophomore duo of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon who check in at No. 13. Then, Kopinski does it again at No. 73, but this time with Farris Gosea. Last but not least is Jared Hiltzik and fellow freshman Alex Jesse, who rank 85th.
LAST TIME OUT VS. NORTHWESTERN - ILL 5, NU 2
The Fighting Illini men's tennis team took down in-state foe Northwestern, 5-2, on March 2 at the Atkins Tennis Center. The Orange and Blue have won 22 straight agains the in-state rival, dating back to the 1997 season. Illinois also enjoys a 59-37-2 series advantage over the Wildcats.
After Stephen Hoh and Jared Hiltzik ended up on the wrong end of 8-6 match against Fedor Baev and Spencer Wolf, the duo of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon tied it up with an 8-6 victory of their own. Then Alex Jesse and Farris Gosea battled Mihir Kumar and Alex Pasareanu. where they rallied to win 9-8 (3).
Gosea, Kopinski and Guignon all picked up singles victories for the Orange and Blue. Then in a clash of ranked opponents between No. 37 Jared Hiltzik and No. 120 Spencer Wolf, the Illini freshman proved the better of the two, emerging with a 6-3, 6-4 win to clinch.
However, Northwestern did capture the final two points of the match. Raleigh Smith got the upper-hand against senior Stephen Hoh for a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Then Chris Jackman found the win column after a tense duel with Brian Page.
FOUR WEEKLY CONFERENCE HONORS
Freshman Jared Hiltzik and sophomore Tim Kopinski have each garnered Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors this season. Hiltzik has taken the title three times this spring, while Kopinski earned the accolade once.
Tim was the first Illini this season to earn the weekly award, being bestowed the honor on Feb. 13 after securing the clinching point over No. 7 Kentucky. In addition, in doubles, Kopinski had knocked off No. 35 Jomby/Lai 8-4.
On March 6, Hiltzik obtained his first laurel after a 3-0 week in singles competition, in which the freshman knocked off No. 120 Spencer Wolf from Northwestern. Next, Jared delivered the lone Illinos pont against Notre Dame when he beat No. 97 Greg Andrews.
The Wilmette native was dubbed with his second award after he was the first to beat the previously undefeated Blaz Rola from Ohio State. Hiltzik then capped the weekend with a win over Russel Bader from Penn State.
Finally, in the last weekend of play during the reuglar season, Hiltzik picked up two more singles victories, this time over No. 104 Sam Monette from Indiana and Mark Kovacs of Purdue.
BIG TEN ACCOLADES
The Big Ten men's tennis All-Conference teams and individual awards were announced Thursday night at the conference banquet, with Illinois tennis standout Jared Hiltzik earning Freshman of the Year honors. In addition, Hiltzik was also named First Team All-Big Ten while sophomore teammate Tim Kopinski picked up Second Team laurels.
Hiltzik becomes the sixth Illini newcomer to win Freshman of the Year, last earned by Dennis Nevolo in 2009. Hiltzik finished his first conference season with a 9-2 singles record and a 7-0 doubles mark when paired with Alex Jesse. The Wilmette native has earned Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week honors three times this spring, last accomplished by Ruben Gonzales in 2008. Key ranked victories this season for Hiltzik include wins over #23 Fred Saba of Duke and #9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Tim Kopinski has built a solid resume during his sophomore campaign, highlighted by great doubles success with Ross Guignon. Kopinski earned his first Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week honor after he lifted his Illini to an upset over #7 Kentucky. Another signature singles victory for Kopinski includes a 6-3, 6-2 win over #14 Michael Redlicki of then #5 Duke. In 2013, Kopinski is 7-1 in doubles when playing in the No. 1 position with a key win over the #2 duo of Jenkins/Styslinger from Virginia.
Finally, senior Bruno Abdelnour was Illinois' Sportsmanship honoree for the second consecutive year. The award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship, ethical behavior and strong academic performance, and who have demonstrated good citizenship outside the sports-competition setting.