Jared Hiltzik enters the fall season with a No. 17 ITA preseason national ranking.
Sept. 11, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Illinois men's tennis team kicks off their fall season this weekend with the seventh annual Olympia Fields Country Club Fighting Illini Invitational. The three day event starting at 9 a.m. CT Friday will take place on the clay courts at Olympia Fields and will also play host to Notre Dame, Kentucky, Memphis, Virginia and Texas.
When the Illini reached the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and the second round of the NCAA Tournament last spring, the squad performed those feats with seven of their nine team members consisting of underclassmen. Thus, their eight man squad this season returns a lot of experience and loftier goals.
Last season's Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jared Hiltzik returns along with fellow sophomores Alex Jesse, Brian Page and Julian Childers. They will be joined by juniors Ross Guignon, Tim Kopinski, Farris Gosea and Vanderbilt transfer Blake Bazarnik.
Hiltzik starts his sophomore campaign with a career high No. 17 ITA preseason ranking. In addition, Hiltzik and doubles partner Alex Jesse obtained a No. 56 national ranking. Speaking of doubles, juniors Guignon and Kopinski also earned a career high ranking when they landed the No. 10 spot on the doubles list, with the latter achieving a No. 121 singles ranking.
"We have an enjoyable team to coach with very like minded individuals with focused mindsets," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "If we can physically and emotionally mature we may sneak up on some people this year, but to do so, our guys have significant improvements to make. The team is in the midst as we speak of solidifying their goals for the fall which will entail processes of toughness, resiliency and focus."
This year's OFCC Invite will feature ten players ranked in the top-125 in which all six teams made it to last spring's NCAA Tournament, including Round of 16 schools Kentucky and Memphis and National Champion Virginia. Some of the top players participating this weekend include No. 9 Tom Jomby from Kentucky, No. 31 Greg Andrews from Notre Dame, No. 46 Ryan Shane from Virginia and the Illini's own No. 17 Jared Hiltzik.
Both singles and doubles rounds will occur throughout the weekend. Coaches will attempt to flip school match-ups as they deem fit to get a variety of competition and discuss the best match-up for determining the Most Outstanding Player. In addition, admission is free and fans are welcome to watch the competition unfold at the Olympia Fields Country Club.
"The OFCC Invite continues to grow in reputation and stature in the collegiate tennis world," said Dancer. "This year's event boasts our strongest field ever, including national champion Virginia. The club continues to set the highest of standards in hosting events and it's an honor to be a part of it."