Men's Tennis
#16 Illini Set to Face Top-Seeded USC in Round of 16

 
The No. 16 Illini will battle No. 1 USC in Athens, Ga., on Friday at 8 a.m. CT.
The No. 16 Illini will battle No. 1 USC in Athens, Ga., on Friday at 8 a.m. CT.
 

May 16, 2012

Complete Notes | Tournament Central | Live Stats

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 16th-ranked Illinois men's tennis team (19-7) will head to Athens, Ga., to take on top-seeded USC (29-1) in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships. The Illini earned their spot in the Sweet 16 by edging No. 17 Auburn, 4-3, while USC punched its ticket with a 4-0 win over Texas A&M. The third-round match will take place Friday, May 18 at 8 a.m. CT at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia.

The winner of Friday's match will advance to the quarterfinals to face the winner of No. 8 Duke and No. 25 Baylor on Sunday, May 20 at Noon CT.

ILLINI IN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Since 1999, the Illini have advanced to the round of 16 12 times and have made it to the quarterfinals six times, the semifinals three times and the finals twice, winning the NCAA title in 2003. The Illini are 26-7 in the past eight years of the NCAA Championships.

Illinois' all-time record in each round
First Round - 13-4
Second Round - 11-2
Third Round - 6-4
Quarterfinals - 3-3
Semifinals - 2-1
Finals - 1-1

SCOUTING THE TROJANS
Three-time defending national champion USC earned the overall No. 1 seed for the first time in program history after holding the top spot in the national rankings all season long. The Trojans have won the title in each of the past three seasons and will look to become the second team in NCAA history to win four straight national championships under the current tournament format. This year marks USC's sixth consecutive postseason appearance and 34th overall. The Trojans lead the country with 19 NCAA titles all-time and boast an 82-29 record in NCAA Tournament play. The squad boasts a 29-1 record this season with its only loss coming to PAC-12 regular season champion and then-No. 5 UCLA.

Five Trojans cracked the national singles rankings, including defending NCAA singles champion and top-ranked Steve Johnson, No. 21 Daniel Nguyen, No. 25 Ray Sarmiento, No. 51 Yannick Hanfmann and No. 57 Emilio Gomez. All five were selected to compete in the NCAA Singles Championships. Johnson carries a 62-match winning streak into the Sweet 16. In doubles, Johnson and Roberto Quiroz are ranked second and earned an automatic bid to the doubles championships.

Illinois leads the all-time series with the Trojans, 4-3. The Illini came away with a 6-1 win on March 16, 2006 in the last meeting between the two teams.

ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
Senior Dennis Nevolo checked in at No. 7 in the latest national singles rankings, while classmate Roy Kalmanovich was ranked 31st. Together, the pair checked in at No. 21 in doubles.

2011 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
The Illini downed Drake, 4-0, and North Carolina, 4-1, to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championships for the ninth time in 10 years. There, the Orange and Blue squared off with top-seeded Virginia, falling 4-0 to end their run in the 2011 tournament.

2012 NCAA REGIONAL RECAP
The 16th-ranked Fighting Illini men's tennis team (19-7) advanced to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships after edging No. 17 Auburn (18-10) in a 4-3 thriller May 12 at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. Junior 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 Orange and Blue captured the doubles point for the second day in a row in a pair of tight battles on courts one and three. No. 21 senior tandem Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich led off with an 8-6 victory over 9th-ranked pairing Andy Mies and Alex Stamchev at the top spot. Junior duo Stephen Hoh and Abdelnour followed with an 8-6 decision against Daniel Cochrane and Lukas Ollert at No. 3 to give the Illini a 1-0 advantage.

Hoh carried over his success from doubles play with a quick 6-2, 6-3 win over Dennis Lengsfeld on court five. The Illini could not maintain that momentum, however, dropping the next three completed matches to hand Auburn a 3-2 advantage.

Nevolo managed to even the score with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Mies on court one, marking his team-leading and career-high 30th win of the season and putting Illinois' fate in the hands of Abdelnour on court three.

In the deciding match, Abdelnour won a tight 7-6(5) first set over Cochrane before falling in the second. The Aleppo, Syria, native eventually recovered in the third to finish off his opponent, 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-3, clinching the Orange and Blue victory and a Sweet 16 berth.

Illinois is now 14-0 when winning in doubles and is 6-0 in its last six contests, matching its longest winning streak of the season.

2012 BIG TEN TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
The third-seeded Fighting Illini men's tennis team captured its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005 in a dramatic 4-3 comeback over top-seeded and third-ranked Ohio State April 29 at Northwestern's Vandy Christie Tennis Center. Illinois' victory snapped the Buckeyes' 92-match winning streak against teams in the Big Ten and ended OSU's six-year reign as tournament champions.

The Illini dropped the doubles point for the first time in four matches, falling on courts two and three before suffering a straight-set loss at No. 1 singles to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 advantage. Freshman Tim Kopinski stormed back with a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory over #115 Ille Van Engelen on court four, but Illinois fell at the No. 3 position in the next completed match to put Ohio State one win away from its seventh straight Big Ten tournament title.

Junior Stephen Hoh was unfazed, however, winning a 6-4, 0-6, 6-1 decision over No. 85 Devin McCarthy at the No. 5 spot. Freshman Ross Guignon followed with a 7-6, 6-4 win over #105 Connor Smith to even the contest at 3-3.

In the final remaining match of the day, No. 41 Roy Kalmanovich maintained his composure after a second-set loss, finishing out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 thriller over No. 6 Blaz Rola to clinch Illinois' first tournament crown in seven years.

The win marked the Orange and Blue's first victory over Ohio State since 2007. The Illini now boast a 57-39-1 lead in the all-time series and join No. 1 USC and No. 2 Georgia as the only teams to beat the Buckeyes this season. OSU has won 48 of its last 52 contests overall and is now 22-3 against teams in the top 75.

NEVOLO, KALMANOVICH SELECTED FOR NCAA SINGLES, DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
Senior Dennis Nevolo was selected by the NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Subcommittee to compete in the 2012 NCAA Men's Singles Championships for the fourth straight year, while fellow senior Roy Kalmanovich was chosen for the second time in his career. Both Illini earned one of 48 at-large bids into the 64-player bracket in which Nevolo is seeded seventh. Additionally, the pair earned one of 21 at-large bids into the 32-team doubles field.

Nevolo advanced to the Sweet 16 to earn All-America honors last year and has reached the round of 32 in each of his previous three NCAA singles appearances. The Gurnee, Ill., native has played in the doubles championships twice in his career, reaching the quarterfinals alongside former Illini Marek Czerwinski in 2010 and dropping the opening-round match with Ruan Roelofse in 2009. Kalmanovich advanced to the round of 32 in the singles championships in 2009.

The selections mark the 16th straight year that at least one Illini will compete on the national stage and the 23rd time overall. Amer Delic captured the program's only NCAA singles title in 2003. Illinois has won three national doubles titles (2000, 2003, 2006) and is the only Big Ten school with an NCAA doubles title. The Illini have advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the doubles championship seven times since 2000.

NEVOLO, KALMANOVICH EARN FIRST-TEAM ALL-BIG TEN HONORS
Fighting Illini seniors Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich garnered first-team All-Big Ten recognition, the conference office announced at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament Awards Banquet. Nevolo earned the honor for the fourth straight year and was a unanimous selection for the second consecutive season, while Kalmanovich made his first-ever appearance on the list. The Illini have secured at least two All-Big Ten honorees for the past 16 years and at least one for the past 23 seasons.

Nevolo went 9-2 in conference play this year, playing primarily at the No. 1 spot. Going into the Big Ten Tournament, he led the team in dual (15-5) and overall (28-7) victories, securing his fourth straight 20-win season while matching a career-high 13 wins over nationally ranked opponents. The Gurnee, Ill., native has been ranked all year, reaching as high as No. 2 in singles and No. 20 in doubles alongside Kalmanovich.

Kalmanovich went 7-4 in the Big Ten, competing primarily on court two. The Framingham, Mass., native ranked second on the team heading into the tournament with 24 wins and has been a mainstay in the national rankings, reaching a career-high No. 21 in singles on Feb. 28.

Junior Bruno Abdelnour was Illinois' Sportsmanship Award honoree, given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship, ethical behavior and strong academic performance and who have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

19TH ANNUAL ADVANTAGE ILLINOIS AWARDS BANQUET
The Illinois men's and women's tennis teams honored the season's accomplishments at the 19th annual Advantage Illinois Tennis Awards Banquet on April 30 at the I-Hotel. Awards were voted on by players, coaches and support staff associated with the teams. Senior Dennis Nevolo was named Advantage Illinois Most Valuable Player, while junior Bruno Abdelnour took home the Scholar-Athlete Award for the second year in a row and also earned the Chris Martin Fighting Illini Spirit Award. Freshman Tim Kopinski was tabbed both Player to Watch and Most Improved, and junior Stephen Hoh garnered the Strength and Conditioning award.

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