Men's Tennis
#12 Illini Depart for NCAA Championships

 
Jared Hiltzik recorded the match clincher over Memphis and sent the Illini on their way to Athens, Ga.
Jared Hiltzik recorded the match clincher over Memphis and sent the Illini on their way to Athens, Ga.
 

May 12, 2014

Printable Notes | Tourney Central | Bracket | Dancer Interview | Hiltzik/Kopinski Interview

ROUND OF 16 PREVIEW

The Fighting Illini depart to Athens, Ga. on Tuesday to prepare for the 2014 NCAA Championships. The men's Round of 16 will begin on Friday, May 16, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex at the University of Georgia. The No. 12-seed Illini will square off with fifth-seed Baylor at 11 a.m. CT, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals against No. 13 Notre Dame or No. 4 Virginia on Sunday at 11 a.m. 

Tickets are available throughout the Championships. Twelve-day all-session tickets are $100 each while daily tickets will be $10 each and are available now: http://ev11.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=TN&linkID=uga&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode= 

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS HISTORY

Since the tournament opened to a 64-team field in 1999, the Illini have advanced to the NCAA Championships 13 times. In fact, Illinois head coach Brad Dancer has reached the Round of 16 seven-out-of-nine times since taking over in the 2005-06 season. 

Overall, the Illini are 41-17 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, as this year marks their 19th straight appearance. Illinois won its lone national championship in 2003 and was national runner-up in 2007. 

Illinois' all-time record in each round
First Round - 16-0
Second Round - 13-3
Third Round - 6-6
Quarterfinals - 3-3
Semifinals - 2-1
Finals - 1-1

'THE COMEBACK'

After a swift 4-0 shutout over Ball State in the first round the Illini found their backs against the wall and their 2014 season coming to a sudden end vs. Memphis. Down 3-0 and losing five of the six first sets, the Illini rallied. Tim Kopinski got the squad on the board with a three-set victory over Johnny Grimal. Jared Hiltzik then fought off two match points and broke Connor Glennon to force a decisive third set. With that, the momentum shifted in the Orange and Blue's favor as they tied up the match with three-set victories from Blake Bazarnik and Ross Guignon. Back on court one, a dialed in Hiltzik cruised to victory, completed the comeback and punched the Illini's ticket to Athens. 

SERVING POINTS

Don't expect to see any changes to the top of a strong Illini singles lineup. No. 8 Jared Hiltzik possesses the longest winning streak on the team with 11 consecutive victories. He is one win shy of tying Gosea's streak of 12 which came to an end against Memphis. Hiltzik is 17-5 in dual matches and has defeated the last four ranked opponents he's faced, including then No. 7 Peter Kobelt of Ohio State. Farris Gosea will hold the fort down in No. 2 singles and has conquered seven consecutive ranked foes, 10-1 against them overall.  

Tim Kopinski ended the regular season with a 13-2 stretch and is off to a 2-0 start in the NCAA Tournament. Kopinski boasts the second most dual match victories with a 21-6 record and has played a pivotal role in the Illini's tremendous success at the top half of their lineup this year. Illinois is a combined 69-15 in the top three singles positions, good for a .821 winning percentage. 

Meanwhile teammate Blake Bazarnik has heated up on the court as of late, accumulating an 8-2 mark since the start of April. Bazarnik is right behind Kopinski with a 20-6 record, primarily playing the No. 4 singles position. Also important to note that whenever an Illini wins at the No. 4 slot, the Orange and Blue are 14-0. 

Ever since he was inserted into the lineup on April 11, sophomore Alex Jesse has posted a 5-2 record. Finally, Ross Guignon is 2-0 in this year's NCAA Tournament, producing a huge three-set win in the 4-3 comeback vs. Memphis. 

SCOUTING BAYLOR

The Illini will get a second crack at Baylor this Friday, as the Bears were the only team to shutout the Illini this season, way back on March 16. The match was played in Indian Wells, Calif. under the College MatchDay format, which meant no doubles was played. In addition, Jared Hiltzik was still injured at the time. 

With that said, Illinois is 4-4 all-time against Baylor. They have met at the NCAA Championships once before, with the Illini advancing to the championship match after defeating Baylor 4-3 in the semis. 

Fifth-seed Baylor enters Friday's matchup on a six-match win streak that included defeating Oklahoma 4-3 for the Big 12 Championship. The Bears advanced to the Round of 16 with a 4-0 shutout over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and then downed Tulsa 4-1. 

Baylor possesses three players in the top-31 as of the May 1 singles rankings: No. 3 Julian Lenz (23-3), No. 14 Patrick Pradella (12-5) and No. 31 Diego Galeano (15-7). In doubles, Baylor has only one ranked team in No. 21 Pradella and Mate Zsiga (10-7). 

HILTZIK & GOSEA SINGLES BOUND // KOPINSKI & GUIGNON SELECTED FOR DOUBLES

Sophomore Jared Hiltzik and junior Farris Gosea were selected to compete in the NCAA Singles Tournament while the team of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon received an invite to the doubles championships. In addition, Hiltzik, Kopinski and Guignon all received All-American honors for the first time in their careers after earning a ranked seed in their respective tournaments. Hiltzik earned the No. 8 overall singles seed while Kopinski/Guignon were tabbed with the 5-8 doubles seed.

The singles and doubles competition will occur May 21-26 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., following the conclusion of the team championships. All matches shall be best-of-three sets. Regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker at six games-all will be used for all matches. 

DOUBLES

The Illini have claimed the doubles point in 16 of its 29 matches this spring. Illinois is 14-2 when they win doubles and 8-5 when they drop the early 1-0 advantage. 

The fifth ranked doubles team of Kopinski and Guignon became the first doubles All-Americans since Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe in 2007. The duo are 16-5 in dual matches and went 8-1 in Big Ten play. They are 7-3 in their last ten and went 5-2 against top-30 ranked doubles teams.

PERFECTION AT HOME

The Illini concluded its home schedule for 2014 with a 4-3 win over Memphis in NCAA Second Round action. As a result, the Orange and Blue hit a couple of key milestones. Illinois went undefeated at home (13-0) for the first time since 2004, and when counting the final two home matches from last season, the Illini have won 15 straight at Atkins, which ranks as the fifth highest of all-time. 

FINISHING STRONG

The Orange and Blue are certainly hitting their stride at the right team of the season. They'll surge into the NCAA Championships winners of 11 of their last 12 matches. During this impressive stretch, Illinois outscored its opponents 51-16. In fact, only Ohio State and Memphis has scored more than two points against the Illini since the start of April.

BIG TEN ACCOLADES

Farris Gosea, Jared Hiltzik and Tim Kopinski were all named First-Team All-Big Ten selections this season, marking the first time since 2009 that the Orange and Blue produced three honorees. More impressively, Gosea was awarded Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Year, marking the sixth time an Illinois player claimed the prestigious award and the first since Kevin Anderson in 2007. 

When it came to Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week awards, Illinois tied Ohio State for the most weekly honors with four apiece. Hiltzik earned his fourth career weekly award on Jan. 21 for his play at the Illini Open. On Feb. 11, Kopinski got the nod after playing a huge role in the Illini's three straight upsets over No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 10 Texas. Finally, Gosea kicked off March with back-to-back weekly wins. Thus, for the first time since 2009, three different Illini have been named Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week in the same season. 

2014 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT RECAP

The Fighting Illini advanced to its seventh Big Ten Tournament title match in Dancer's nine years at the helm after cruising past Indiana and Michigan in the quarters and semis. Illinois then met top-seed Ohio State in the championship, which marked the 11th straight year the two squads met in the tournament.  However, it was the Buckeyes that emerged with a 4-2 victory. No. 8 Jared Hiltzik and No. 17 Farris Gosea delivered the Illini's two points from the top-two spots in singles. Both picked up wins over ranked opponents, including Hiltzik's straight set victory over No. 7 Peter Kobelt. 

ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS

Illinois was awarded the No. 12 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament when they maintained said ranking after the conclusion of the conference tournaments. The Illini started the year ranked No. 22 before peaking at No. 6 on March 4. 

Jared Hiltzik remains deadlocked at No. 8 in singles, earning the eighth overall seed in the NCAA Singles tournament. Not too far off is Farris Gosea, who checks in at No. 18, missing the All-American cut by two spots. Lastly, Tim Kopinski rounds out the ranked singles competitors at No. 63. In doubles, Kopinski and Ross Guignon hold down the No. 5 spot, while Gosea and Alex Jesse climbed nearly 30 spots to No. 63.  

HEADLINES