Illinois returns to action Friday against Drake in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
May 11, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois men's tennis team was tabbed to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championships for the 12th time in 13 years, May 13-14, at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana. Sixteenth-seeded North Carolina (15-7) and Eastern Kentucky (21-4) will square off in the first match of the day at noon on Friday, May 13, followed by Illinois (16-10) versus Drake (21-2) at 3 p.m. The Illini will be making their 16th straight NCAA Championship appearance and have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen 10 times in the past 12 years.
First- and second-round competition will be conducted Friday-Sunday, May 13-15, at 16 different regional sites with the winner of each site advancing to the NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championships at the Taube Tennis Center on the campus of Stanford University, May 19-30.
TICKET & PARKING INFORMATION
Admission each day will be $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children two and under are free. Tickets for the first and second rounds can be purchased at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex starting one hour prior to the first match each day. One ticket is valid for one admission to all matches on the day the ticket is purchased. Free parking is available east of the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex off of Goodwin Ave. Spectators can enter the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex from this lot.
HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
The Illini are 11-1 in the first round when hosting the regional, with the only loss coming to Northwestern in 1997. Overall, the Orange and Blue are 12-3 in the first round, with the three losses coming in the first three years the team earned berths into the NCAA Championships from 1996-98. Since the tournament opened to a 64-team field in 1999, the Illini have advanced to the second round each year, compiling a perfect 12-0 record.
2010 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
The Illini downed Xavier 4-0 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Championships last season where they met a familiar foe in Big Ten rival Wisconsin. After enduring a two and a half hour rain delay that forced the match indoors, the Badgers took control early with the doubles point and went on to claim the victory, 4-1. The loss snapped Illinois' streak of eight straight Sweet Sixteen appearances.
2011 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT RECAP
After coming out on the winning end of a 4-3 battle with Michigan in the quarterfinals, the Illini fell 4-0 to Ohio State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes went on to capture their sixth straight Big Ten Tournament title.
NEVOLO SELECTED FOR NCAA SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
Junior Dennis Nevolo was selected by the NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Subcommittee to compete in the 2011 NCAA Men's Singles Championships for the third straight year. Nevolo earned one of 48 at-large bids and is seeded 9-16, while holding a current national ranking of No. 15. The Gurnee, Ill., native has reached the round of 32 in each of his previous two NCAA singles appearances.
According to last year's ITA All-America criteria, for the NCAA Singles Championships, a player must be a top 16 seed, reach the round of 16 in the NCAA Singles Championships, or finish in the top 20 of the final ITA rankings in order to earn such honors. Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe were the last two Illini to earn All-America accolades in 2007.
Nevolo's selection into the 64-player singles field marks the 15th straight year the Illini will compete on the national stage and the 22nd time overall. Amer Delic captured the program's only NCAA singles title in 2003.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
The Illini made four appearances in the latest Campbell/ITA national singles rankings released May 2, including juniors Dennis Nevolo (No. 14) and Roy Kalmanovich (No. 122) and seniors Abe Souza (No. 81) and Johnny Hamui (No. 104). In doubles, Souza checked in at No. 55 with Nevolo and No. 78 with Hamui.
Illinois boasted one of the toughest schedules in the country once again this season, as 12 of the Illini's 26 matches were against opponents ranked in the current top 25, including No. 1 Virginia (twice), No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Ohio State (twice), No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Texas A&M (twice), No. 10 Kentucky, No. 12 Duke, No. 14 Texas and No. 19 Minnesota. Against the top 25, Illinois is 4-9 with wins over Duke, Kentucky, Florida and Texas A&M.
*Junior Dennis Nevolo has secured his third straight season with 20-plus wins and boasts a team-best 25 this year, including a career-high 13 over nationally ranked opponents. He has twice defeated the No. 1 player in the country this season (Tennessee's John-Patrick Smith and Rhyne Williams) and has ranked as high as a career-best No. 7 in the ITA singles rankings. Through three seasons, Nevolo has recorded 80 singles wins and 75 in doubles for his career thus far.
*Senior Abe Souza ranks second on the team with 24 wins, bringing his career total to 98, which ranks 13th all-time for most career singles wins as an Illini. He has won seven straight matches and finished with a team-best 8-2 mark in Big Ten play.
*Junior Roy Kalmanovich returned to the squad this spring and quickly found his way back toward the top of the lineup. He finished the dual season with 15 wins and played 14 of the final 16 matches at the No. 2 spot. As a sophomore in 2009, Kalmanovich enjoyed a breakout season, leading the team with 30 wins and earned All-Big Ten honors.
*Three Illini have put together their best year yet as Illini, as senior Johnny Hamui and sophomores Stephen Hoh and Bruno Abdelnour each tallied career-high win totals for the season. Hamui has posted 17 wins and has played at Nos. 1-4, while Hoh ranks third on the team with 22 wins and Abdelnour has 14.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Bulldogs will be making their fifth-ever NCAA Championships appearance and first since 2008. This year's draw marks the third time Drake will play in the Urbana regional, though it will be the Bulldogs' first-ever meeting with Illinois. Drake earned its bid by winning the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship with a 4-0 victory over Wichita State. The Bulldogs are currently riding a 15-match winning streak, with their only two losses on the year coming at Big Ten opponents Iowa (5-2, Feb. 23) and Minnesota (5-2, Feb. 25).
Drake swept top conference honors this season as first-year head coach Evan Austin was named MVC Coach of the Year and Mauricio Ballivian became the first-ever back-to-back recipient of the MVC Player of the Year award. Ballivian led the Bulldogs to an undefeated conference mark and boasts a team-high 30 wins in both singles and doubles. In addition to Ballivian, Jean Erasmus and Anis Ghorbel earned first-team All-MVC accolades for the Bulldogs. Erasmus has compiled 30 wins in singles, including an 18-1 mark in duals and has won 11 straight matches, while Ghorbel is 24-2 overall, 21-1 in duals and has won 15 straight.
The Tar Heels, currently ranked 18th in the national rankings, received an at-large bid into the NCAA Championships and will be making their 12th straight appearance in the field. They reached the quarterfinals in 1992 and the round of 16 in 1993, 2006 and 2008, while falling in the round of 32 to Duke last season. North Carolina and Illinois have faced five similar opponents on the year, with the Tar Heels defeating Texas and Duke, but dropped matches to Ohio State, Notre Dame and Virginia. The Tar Heels won 12 of their last 15 matches to close out the regular season. Illinois has not faced North Carolina since 1966, with the Tar Heels holding a 3-2 all-time series lead.
Stefan Hardy, Brennan Boyajian and Jose Hernandez were named All-ACC, while Hernandez also earned an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship after finishing 14-5 overall and 9-2 in the ACC. Hernandez and Boyajian were selected as alternates for the NCAA Doubles Championship after finishing the season ranked 33rd nationally.
The Colonels won the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) championship for the second straight year to earn their second-ever bid into the NCAA Championships. The 21 victories compiled by Eastern Kentucky this season is the most during head coach Rob Oertel's 10-year tenure and the Colonels ended the year on a nine-match winning streak. Illinois defeated Eastern Kentucky in the only meeting ever between the two programs in 1955.
Alex Das was tabbed OVC Player of the Year for the second year in a row after going undefeated in conference play in both singles and doubles. Also earning All-OVC accolades were Philip Janz, Hugo Klientovsky and Niklas Schroeder, while Oertel was named OVC Coach of the Year for the fourth time in five years.