Ryler DeHeart and GD Jones are both ranked in the ITA preseason top-20
Sept. 7, 2005
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini are poised for another run in 2004-05, but this run will not include the winningest graduating class at Illinois. The trio of Chris Martin, Conner Murnigham and Evan Zeder set a new standard in Illinois tennis history with a record of 115-10. With the talent on this year's squad, another strong run in the NCAA tournament could be on the horizon.
The talent on the team got recognition by the ITA with the release of the preseason men's rankings on Sept. 6. A total of six Illini garnered top 125 singles rankings including three in the top 20. Senior Ryler DeHeart has the impressive honor as the nations No.1 singles player followed by junior GD Jones at No. 11 and sophomore Kevin Anderson at No. 18. Sophomore Ruben Gonzales is ranked No. 107, newcomer Marc Spicijaric is at No. 115 and sophomore Monte Tucker rounds out the top 125 at No. 123.
"Having six guys ranked in the top 125 in the nation shows the tremendous depth we have on this squad," said Coach Dancer. "The preseason rankings indicate how people think we will fair this year and if the players continue to improve we will find plenty of success."
DeHeart won the ITA Midwest Regional singles and doubles crown in 2004 and the singles title a the National Indoor Championships, becoming only the second unseeded player in the last 10 years of the 26-year history of the event to do so.
"It is a very prestigious honor to be the No. 1 ranked player," said Coach Dancer. "It is a testament to his dedication and commitment to all the hard work he has put into the game of tennis."
The team starts their quest this weekend as they head to the Napa Valley Invitational in California. This year's invite includes some of the best competition in the country. The Illini are joined by host California, who concluded the 2005 campaign ranked No. 23, Georgia and North Carolina. Georgia finished last year behind Illinois at No. 7 and North Carolina was No. 34.
"This is a great opportunity for our team to showcase our talent against a great field of competition," said Coach Dancer. "The Napa Valley Invitational is one of our favorite events each year. Cal does a great job as host and they put on a first-class event all the way."
All-American, DeHeart, finished last year as the winningest single-season player in Illinois history going 42-10 and surpassing the previous mark (40) set by Gavin Sontag in 1997-98. DeHeart collected three victories against top-10 opponents last year and was named to the 22nd ITA Collegiate All-Star team.
Jones went 26-8 overall last season and ranked as high as No.14, the second highest ranking behind DeHeart in the Big Ten and midwest all season.
Anderson garnered Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors by going 21-5 for the Illini. The newcomer to last year's team via South Africa started of his collegiate career with 13 straight victories, defeating six ranked opponents during the stretch.
At No. 107, Gonzales sports a 22-2 record in the dual season and finished second among the Illini in singles wins last season.
Highly touted freshman Spicijaric joins the ranks at No. 115 without playing a single collegiate match. His credentials speak for themselves as he was once ranked No. 1 in the US 18-and-under and No.1 in his home state of Florida.
Tucker had a stretch where he won eight of nine, including two wins over top-50 opponents to propel him to a ranking as high as No. 78 last season.
The doubles tandem of DeHeart/Dabir enter their fourth year and with it carry plenty of experience but not so much with each other. The two played sparingly together last season and put together an 8-3 record. Anderson/Davis will be paired together for the first time but both have the experience to achieve many victories. Anderson was 17-6 in doubles play last season and Davis is fresh off a USTA Pro Circuit doubles title in August.