Illinois takes on top-seeded Virginia in the round of 16 on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT.
May 17, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - For the third time this season, the Illinois men's tennis team (18-10) will take on the undefeated and top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers (31-0). The Illini earned their spot in the round of 16 of the 2011 NCAA Championships by knocking off 16th-seeded North Carolina, 4-1, while Virginia defeated Wake Forest by the same score. The third-round match will take place on Thursday, May 19 at 8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT at the Taube Tennis Center on the campus of Stanford University.
Virginia leads the all-time series, 8-2, and has won its last six matches against the Illini, including two earlier this season. The Illini's last victory over Virginia was in 2006, when they knocked off the top-ranked Cavaliers, 5-2, on Jan. 29 at Atkins Tennis Center. The win also marks Illinois' last victory over a No. 1 team.
The winner of Thursday's match will advance to the quarterfinals to face the winner of No. 8 Stanford and No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
2011 NCAA REGIONAL RECAP
With a thrilling 4-1 victory over 16th-seeded North Carolina on May 14, the Illinois men's tennis team earned a spot in the round of 16 of the NCAA Championships for the ninth time in 10 years.
Illinois once again gained the early momentum in doubles, as the decisive point came down to court three for the second match in a row. Sophomores Stephen Hoh and KU Singh took a 7-5 lead, before the Tar Heels stormed back to even the score and eventually forced a tiebreaker at eight-all. Down 3-0 in the breaker, the Illini rallied back to knot the score at three, before going on to claim the match, 9-8 (5).
No. 15 junior Dennis Nevolo made quick work on court one, as he downed No. 22 Jose Hernandez, 6-1, 6-2, for his team-best 27th win of the year and 14th over a nationally ranked opponent. Battles ensued on the remaining courts, before No. 81 senior Abe Souza collected the third team point with a two-set victory over Joey Burkhardt, 7-6 (2), 6-1. The win was Souza's 25th of the season, eighth straight and 99th of his career. He is now tied with Neil Adams for 12th all-time in most career singles wins.
Coming up with the clinching match for the Illini was No. 104 senior Johnny Hamui, who held off William Parker, 6-3, 6-4, for his 18th win of the year.
The previous day, the Illini improved to 12-1 all-time in NCAA first-round matches when hosting with a 4-0 victory over Drake. In a thrilling finish to doubles on court three, sophomores Stephen Hoh and KU Singh overcame a 7-4 deficit, rattling off five straight games to defeat Robin Goodman and Cesar Bracho, 9-7, and helped give the Illini a 1-0 advantage. The momentum carried over into singles, where the Illini secured the first three matches to clinch a 4-0 victory. Picking up wins on the day were Singh and juniors Roy Kalmanovich and Dennis Nevolo.
ILLINI IN THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Since 1999, the Illini have advanced to the round of 16 11 times, while they have made it to the quarterfinals six times, the semifinals three times and the finals twice, winning the 2003 NCAA title.
Illinois' all-time record in each round
First Round - 13-3
Second Round - 11-2
Third Round - 6-4
Quarterfinals - 3-3
Semifinals - 2-1
Finals - 1-1
The Illini are 26-6 in the past seven years of the NCAA Championships. Stanford's only previous time serving as host for the men's and women's NCAA Championships was in 2006. The Illini reached the round of 16 that year as well, but fell to UCLA, 4-2.
Virginia earned the No. 1 seed for the championships for the fourth straight season and has held the top spot in the national rankings for all but one week this year. With wins over Sacred Heart and Wake Forest, the Cavaliers advanced to the round of 16 for the eighth straight year and improved to 27-12 all-time in the NCAA Championships. They have reached at least the quarterfinals in each of the past six seasons, and advanced to the semifinals in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Five Cavaliers currently occupy the singles rankings including Alex Domijan (No. 2), Michael Shabaz (No. 5), Sanam Singh (No. 34), Drew Courtney (No. 39) and Jarmere Jenkins (No. 56). All five were selected to compete in the NCAA Singles Championships, which was the most of any team. In doubles, defending NCAA Doubles Champions Shabaz and Courtney checked in at No. 2 and were selected to compete in the NCAA Doubles Championships along with Domijan and Jenkins.
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 13 of the Illini's 28 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, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 19 Minnesota. Against the top 25, Illinois is 5-9 with wins over North Carolina, 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 27 this year, including a career-high 14 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 82 singles wins and 77 in doubles for his career thus far.
*Senior Abe Souza ranks second on the team with 25 wins, bringing his career total to 99, which ranks tied for 12th all-time for most career singles wins as an Illini. He has won eight 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 18 wins and has played at Nos. 1-4, while Hoh ranks third on the team with 22 wins and Abdelnour has 14.