Illini Begin NCAA Tournament in Nashville
May 8, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois men’s tennis team (16-10) will make their 18th straight NCAA Tournament appearance this weekend when they travel to Nashville, Tennessee for the first and second rounds of the 2013 team tournament. The Illini are 38-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
All matches will be held at the Currey Tennis Center. There will be two matches on Friday, May 10, as Illinois clashes with Georgia State in the opening bout at 11 a.m. CT. Host Vanderbilt is then up next at 2 p.m. CT in a showdown with ETSU. The winners of match one and two will then square off on Saturday, May 11, at 2 p.m. CT.
The winners of the 16 individual regional sites will earn a berth to the NCAA Championships, hosted for the first time by the University of Illinois at the Atkins Tennis Center Complex in Urbana.
TICKET AND PARKING INFO
Tickets for each day at the Nashville regional will be $5 general admission and $3 for students. Tickets will only be sold at the gate each day and must be paid in cash only. In addition, Friday’s ticket is good for matches one and two.
For parking on Friday, fans can use the medical center lots Nos. 74 and 75, which are accessible from Natchez Trace. On Saturday, fans are encouraged to use the 25th Ave Garage, located directly to the east of the Currey Tennis Center. Most importantly, parking is free on both days.
1ST AND 2ND ROUND HISTORY
Historically, the Illini have had tremendous success in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Since the tournament opened to a 64-team field in 1999, the Illini have advanced to the second round each year, compiling a perfect 14-0 record. In the second round, the Orange and Blue are an impressive 12-2. Thus, head coach Brad Dancer has only failed once at advancing out of the regional since taking over in the 2005-06 season.
HILTZIK, KOPINSKI/GUIGNON SELECTED FOR SINGLES, DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
Freshman Jared Hiltzik was selected for the 64 man singles field while Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski got the nod from the NCAA men’s tennis subcommittee in doubles, which is comprised of 32 pairs. After collecting Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors at the conference banquet, Jared Hiltzik departs into his first NCAA post-season tournament on a six match singles win streak. Ranked 32nd in the country, Hiltzik has pieced together a solid debut season, compiling a 17-4 overall dual record with three Top-25 upsets. Sophomores Kopinski and Guignon rank 16th in the country, as the duo are 8-2 in their last ten matches and achieved a signature win over #2 Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger from then #1 Virginia.
The singles and doubles competition will be conducted May 22-27 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex following the conclusion of the team championship, which runs from May 16-21. All-session and single-day tickets are on sale now. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the Illinois Ticket Office at 866-Illini-1 or by visiting the Championship Central Page. Adult all-session tickets are $100, while youth (18 and under) all-session tickets are $75. Single-day tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youth. Admission is free for children age two or younger. Groups of 10 or more can purchase single-day group tickets at $5 apiece by calling the Illinois Ticket Office.
2012 NCAA TOURNAMENT RECAP
Last year, the Illini started the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 shutout vs. Western Michigan. Next, Illinois just edged out Auburn 4-3 as Bruno Abdelnour clinched the contest in a dramatic three-setter, capping off Illinois’ nearly five-hour-long marathon match to give his team its 12th Sweet 16 berth in the past 14 years. The Illini ended their run at the NCAA Championships, falling to No. 1 USC 4-0.
2013 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT RECAP
The Fighting Illini went 1-1 in the Big Ten Tournament, defeating Northwestern 4-2 in the quarterfinals before falling 4-0 to top seed and eventual conference champions Ohio State. Jared Hiltzik and Tim Kopinski powered the Orange and Blue against the Wildcats, both earning singles and doubles victories. In addition, Farris Gosea picked up a win at the No. 6 singles position. Against the Buckeyes, Hiltzik was poised for yet another top-25 upset but his match went unfinished at 6-3, 4-6, 4-3 vs. No. 9 Peter Kobelt.
10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
This season marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2002-03 Illinois men’s tennis squad that went 32-0 on their way to the program’s first national championship. They became the first team other than UCLA, Stanford, USC or Georgia to win an NCAA team tennis title since 1977 and the fourth team to claim the top prize while also undefeated. Ironically enough, the team the Illini defeated in the title match is none other than 2013 regional host Vanderbilt. Amer Delic also obtained the NCAA singles championship in 2003 while teammates Brian Wilson and Rajeev Ram completed the sweep by taking the doubles championship.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
When Illinois battles Georgia State on Friday, it will mark the first time either squad have met on the tennis court. If both the Illini and ETSU were to advance, it would be their first encounter as well. Furthermore, Illinois and Vanderbilt have clashed on four separate occasions, with the Illini claiming victory in all four. Three of the encounters have come in the post-season tournament, last facing off at the NCAA Championships in 2004, where Illinois won 4-0.
Georgia State enters at 15-10 and earned an automatic bid after defeating MTSU in the Sun Belt Conference Championship final. Victor Valente leads the team with a 19-4 dual match record, all the No. 1 position. Robert Schulze follows suit with a 16-7 mark, with nine victories coming from the No. 4 slot, while Lucas Santa Ana is 15-10 and 10-3 at No. 3. Santa Ana and Valente team together for No. 1 doubles where they are 8-2 and 14-2 overall in dual matches. In addition, Santa Ana and Valente became the first doubles pairing in Georgia State history to earn a bid to the NCAA doubles championships
East Tennessee State University garnered their ticket to the NCAA Tournament via Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship where they defeated Lipscomb and North Florida along the way. ETSU will enter Friday’s match with Vanderbilt on an eight match win streak. Jesus Bandres plays at No. 1 singles where he is 13-4 this season and 7-2 in his last ten. Rogerio Ribeiro has solidified the No. 2 position for ETSU, where he is 14-4. The above mentioned duo team together for No. 1 doubles where they are 10-6 in dual matches and have won ten straight.
Vanderbilt will be making their 12th NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth consecutive. The Commodores enter as the No. 16 overall seed and will host a regional for the first time since 2003. Vanderbilt enters with a 16-10 mark, the most wins since 2004. In addition, three of the wins came against top-15 teams in No. 13 Mississippi State, No. 4 Ole Miss and No. 8 Kentucky, whom the Illini upset this year as well. Vandy is led by Ryan Lipman, who is ranked 10th in the latest ITA polls thanks to 18-6 dual match record. Gonzales Austin is also ranked for the Commodores at No. 48 as he compiled a 14-9 dual match record this spring. However, the most dual wins on the squad belongs to freshman standout Kris Yee with a 19-2 mark.
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 (last accomplished by Ruben Gonzales in 2008), 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.
Hiltzik obtained his first laurel on March 6 after a 3-0 week in singles competition, in which he knocked off No. 120 Spencer Wolf from Northwestern and No. 97 Greg Andrews from Notre Dame. The Wilmette native garnered his second award after he was the first to beat the previously undefeated Blaz Rola from Ohio State. Finally, in the last weekend of play during the regular season, Hiltzik picked up two more singles victories, this time over No. 104 Sam Monette from Indiana and Mark Kovacs of Purdue to earn award number three.
BIG TEN ACCOLADES
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. 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 built a solid resume during his sophomore campaign, highlighted by great doubles success with Ross Guignon. A signature singles victory for Kopinski includes a 6-3, 6-2 win over #14 Michael Redlicki of then #5 Duke. Kopinski is 12-2 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.