Senior Brandon Davis (pictured) and the Illini close out the fall season in Ohio and Florida.
Oct. 31, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's tennis team looks to close out its fall schedule this weekend with a pair of tournaments to end another successful semester. Senior No. 9-ranked Ryan Rowe travels to the Intercollegiate Tennis Associate (ITA) National Indoor Championships in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 1-4, while senior Brandon Davis, sophomore Billy Heiser and freshmen Connor Roth and Abe Souza ate headed to the Seminole Invitational in Tallahassee, Fla., Nov. 2-4.
"Ryan has a tough road ahead of him in Columbus, while Brandon, Billy, Connor and Abe are at perhaps the best tournament with the strongest field outside of National Indoors," head coach Brad Dancer said. " For Ryan, his first-round match against No. 3-seeded Robert Farah of USC is going to be a test for him. However, Ryan is coming in with the best preparation from this past week than he has had all fall. His No. 1 goal to start off with will be to get through Farah."
For Rowe, the Moline, Ill., native is heading to the ITA National Indoors where the nation's top men and women will be in action. This is the second of three national tournaments for singles and doubles during the 2007-08 collegiate tennis season. Ohio State University is hosting this week's championships at the Racquet Club of Columbus. First-round matches will begin at 10 am CT on Thursday, including Rowe's opening-round match against No. 3-seeded Farah of USC. The two have never met on the courts. Rowe's best performance to date this season was a finalist appearance in the Midwest Regional singles draw, while Farah battled his way to the finals of the Polo Ralph Lauren/IT All-American Championships in early October, losing to eventual champion Travis Helgeson of Georgia.
The men's field includes top-ranked defending NCAA singles champion Somdev Devvarman of Virginia as the top seed, along with Helgeson (No. 2 seed), who won the Polo Ralph Lauren All-American championship. The remaining eight seeds include Farah, Greg Ouellette of Florida and Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State rounding out the top five. The remaining No. 6-8 seeds include Erling Tveit of Mississippi, Luke Shields of Boise State and Andre Begemann of Pepperdine.
Overall, the tournament features a 32-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles bracket to be played over the course of four days. Fans can followed the action through live results on the ITA web site at www. itatennis.com and clicking on the National Indoors link at the top of the page.
At the Seminole Invitational, Davis, Heiser, Roth and Souza will be participating in both singles and doubles competition over the course of the three-day tournament. The field will be broken up into flights for both singles and doubles, with the bracket being released late Thursday afternoon.
"Heading into this weekend, we definitely want to focus on finishing strong," Davis said. "We hope that Ryan has a great showing and can win up in Columbus, while for Billy, Abe, Connor and I, we just want to end the fall on a high note and get some more match experience under our belts."
"Billy and the guys are going to get shots at some ranked opponents, so this is going to be a good test for them in Florida," Dancer added. "They have a great chance for some quality matches to end the fall on a good note."
Heading into this weekend, Souza leads the Illini in wins as he boasts a 10-8 record in singles over the course of four tournaments, while Roth follows closely behind with an 8-9 ledger, also in four tournament appearances. Souza enters this weekend having won seven of his last 10 matches.
"All fall we have just been focusing on getting better," Roth said. "I am looking to finish the fall season above .500, while just working on improving my game overall."
For the Illini youngsters, five tournaments and a lot of match play does not bother them, it's the learning curve to which they are applying all their lessons from their matches that is the key.
"I have been really working on improving at a faster rate," Roth said. "I think I am making steps in the right direction. Now it's about just applying all that I am learning and seeing the results a lot sooner. I mean the change to college tennis has been huge for me. In juniors, when you won the first set, usually the opponent would just check out of the match. In college, you know that they are going to be gunning for you in the second set, so it's a lot harder to put people away."
The remaining Illini superlatives include Rowe owning the best winning percentage of the entire squad with a 7-3 mark on the young season, including a 4-3 posting against ranked opponents. For Heiser, his accomplishments continue to mount as he is 2-3 against ranked opponents, including topping No. 5-ranked Luke Shields of Boise State in straight sets at the Charles Fluitt Invitational, and is at .500 at 4-4 overall in singles.
In the doubles arena, seniors Rowe and Davis are 3-1 as a pair, including a 2-1 mark against ranked foes, while Rowe and Heiser are the winningest duo on the Illini roster with a 5-1 mark, including a semifinals appearance at the ITA Midwest Regional Championships earlier this fall.
To keep track of the action this weekend, fans and media can access a daily recap of Rowe's battle through the ITA National Indoors bracket, while a weekend recap will be available of the Seminole Invitational, both on the home web site of Fighting Illini athletics, fightingillini.com.