SOUTH BEND, Ind. - On the day the Illinois men's tennis team climbed the ITA tennis rankings to the No. 13 spot, their highest of the season, the Orange and Blue split a rare Tuesday double-header in South Bend. First, the Illini shut-out Illinois State 4-0, but then fell 4-1 in the nightcap against No. 27 Notre Dame.
Illinois came out swinging to start the match against the Redbirds, claiming their third straight doubles point. Alex Jesse and Farris Gosea were the first tandem done, winning 8-2 against Muddappa Appanervanda and Erik Brunskog in the number two slot. Illinois State then evened it up after Alexander Pelaez and Rodrigo Oliveira downed Stephen Hoh and Jared Hiltzik 8-1 in number three doubles. Next, Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski clinched the point with a 8-5 win over Rolando Torrellas and Jakub Eisner on court one.
Tim Kopinski then carried over his success into singles play, wrapping up his match first in the three slot by the score of 6-1, 6-4 vs Torrellas. Rebounding from his loss against Northwestern, Brian Page earned a point for the Illini, winning 6-3, 6-4 over Jacob Wilson. Finally, Gosea completed the shutout with his 7-5, 6-0 victory over Eisner.
Thus, Illinois moved the overall series against Illinois State to 54-1. The Illini have now won 37 straight against the in-state foe.
"Illinois State played well and fought hard for they are a well coached team," said Associate Head Coach Marcos Asse. "I'm proud of the victory and any road win is a good win in my book."
Therefore, the good news was that the Illini achieved their first three match winning streak of the season, but the bad news was that it became short lived.
It was a battle right from the get-go in doubles competition against No. 27 Notre Dame, as both squads not only seeked the important first point, but also crucial momentum heading into singles.
Hiltzik, playing with his second senior of the day in Bruno Abdelnour, fell 8-5 in number three doubles. Next, Gosea and Jesse sprinted out to a 3-1 lead but couldn't sustain it as they eventually fell 8-5. In the unfinished match, Kopinski and Guignon found themselves in a 3-1 hole but fought back to cut the deficit to one at 4-3 before play was suspended.
Freshman Jared Hiltzik did his best to turn the tide in the Illini's favor. The 37th ranked player tied the game at 1-1 after he defeated No. 97 Greg Andrews 6-4, 6-4. However, Notre Dame then gained some separation and sealed the home win when they clinched the next three points.
Abdelnour suffered defeat on the number six singles court, dropping to Michael Moore 6-4, 6-3. Then Wyatt McCoy earned a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory on the number five court over Gosea, snapping the sophomore's four match winning streak in singles play.
Next, No. 118 Ross Guignon found himself in a tough back and forth battle on court four. Guignon immediately jumped on his opponent in Billy Pecor, winning the first set 6-2. After trailing 3-0 in the second set, the sophomore rallied to force an eventual tiebreaker where Pecor won 7-4. Pecor then rode the second set success to take the third, 6-1, thus clinching the match for the Fighting Irish.
Stephen Hoh's match against Quentin Monaghan in number two singles went unfinished at 7-6, 1-6, 1-2. In addition, No. 113 Tim Kopinski was ahead in the third set when play was stopped, as his score stood at 4-6, 7-5, 4-3 against No. 102 Blas Moros.
"Notre Dame played a great match," said Illinois Head Coach Brad Dancer. "It was one of the first matches this season in which I thought the doubles point was critical. It was certainly an interesting match with a lot of ebb and flow. The fans in attendance were definitely treated to some exciting tennis."
The now 7-4 Illini will have 12 days off before welcoming Virginia and USC to the Atkins Tennis Center, wrapping up their final non-conference matches of the regular season.