URBANA, Ill. - The No. 17 University of Illinois men's tennis team kicked off Big Ten play Friday night with a 7-0 shutout win over the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes. The Fighting Illini's overall record moves to 5-3 while Iowa drops to 6-3. Illinois has now won 18 straight against the Hawkeyes dating back to the 1995-96 season.
The Orange and Blue finally captured the elusive doubles point for the first time this season and took the 1-0 lead heading into singles competition. The combination of youth in Jared Hiltzik with the veteran leadership of Stephen Hoh worked well on court five, as the duo cruised to a 8-3 victory over Joey White and Juan Estenssoro.
Meanwhile, Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon battled all the way to an 8-8 tie break on court one against Michael Swank and Garret Dunn, where it eventually went unfinished due to the Illini duo of Alex Jesse and Farris Gosea.
It was a back and forth match on court 3 until tied at four a-piece, then Jesse/Gosea found an extra gear and won four out of the next five games to win 8-5, as they claimed the doubles point for the team.
"We were pleased we got the doubles point, but at the same time we have 12 criteria we were trying to checkmark during doubles and we accomplished only about five," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "For whatever reason, we seem to have some sort of doubles anxiety, but we don't in singles."
Farris Gosea carried over his momentum into singles play on court five, where the sophomore cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Michael Swank to boost the Illini to a 2-0 lead.
Then, fresh legs in the form of Brian Page delivered the third point for the Illini on court six. The freshman downed Dominic Patrick 6-1, 6-3.
No. 37 Jared Hiltzik returned to the number one position and earned a 6-2, 6-2 win. Next, Stephen Hoh followed suit with a strong 6-1, 6-2 victory over Matt Hagan.
"The leader tonight was Stephen Hoh," said Dancer. "That was the best I've seen him in terms of the things I'm asking him to do on the court, and I was really pleased."
In addition, newly ranked, No. 118 Ross Guignon provided solid play on court three. Guignon earned a 6-1, 6-4 win. Finally, after his grueling unfinished doubles match, No. 113 Tim Kopinski produced a point for the Orange and Blue on court four. The previous Big Ten tennis player of the week won 6-2, 6-4.
Thus, the Illini did not lose a set the entire match, as an Iowa player did not surpass scoring four games per set.
The Illini continue Big Ten action at home Saturday night when they take on Northwestern at 6 p.m. CT inside Atkins Tennis Center.