URBANA, Ill. - The No. 17 University of Illinois men's tennis team continued their hot play to start the Big Ten season, defeating No. 20 Northwestern 5-2 to move to 2-0 in conference play. The victory bumps the Illini's record to 6-3 as they have now won four of their past five. The win also marks the third already against an opponent ranked in the Top-25.
The Orange and Blue continue their dominance over their in-state rival, as the Illini have now won 22 straight against the Wildcats, dating back to the 1997 season. Illinois now also enjoys a 59-37-2 series advantage over Northwestern.
"We focused as much as possible on how we are trying to play and if we do that, we'll win matches and we'll win them convincingly," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "This weekend, we are happy to start 2-0, but I still saw some things that we can do better out there."
Two weeks of statistical analyzation of doubles play has paid off for Dancer as the Illini captured the doubles point for the second straight contest. After Stephen Hoh and Jared Hiltzik ended up on the wrong end of 8-6 match against Fedor Baev and Spencer Wolf, the duo of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon tied it up with an 8-6 victory of their own.
Then all eyes turned to court two where Alex Jesse and Farris Gosea battled Mihir Kumar and Alex Pasareanu. Down 3-5 at one point, the Illini fought back to a 6-7 score. Facing defeat, Gosea/Jesse rallied to eventually force an 8-8 tiebreak in which they claimed 7-3.
Gosea then picked up his singles play right where he left off yesterday, as the sophomore was the first to achieve victory once more, winning 6-2, 6-1.
In a clash of ranked opponents between No. 37 Jared Hiltzik and No. 120 Spencer Wolf, the Illini freshman proved the better of the two, emerging with a 6-3, 6-4 win to claim the third point for Illinois.
No. 113 Tim Kopinski and No. 118 Ross Guignon solidified the victory for Illinois with wins of their own, both moving to 2-0 in singles play for the opening Big Ten weekend. Kopinski won 6-3, 6-3, in the three slot, while Guignon won 6-2, 6-2 in the four.
However, Northwestern did capture the final two points of the match. Raleigh Smith got the upper-hand against senior Stephen Hoh for a 6-2, 6-4 victory. Then Chris Jackman found the win column after a tense duel with Brian Page. Page won the first set 6-4 but dropped the second 6-3. Jackman then earned the win in the match tie break for the third set, 10-4.
The Orange and Blue will seek their first three game win streak of the season Tuesday, March 5, when they compete in a double header in South Bend against Illinois State and Notre Dame.