#19 Illini Resume Big Ten Play With Nebraska
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The #19 Illinois men's tennis team will end their three match home-stand by resuming Big Ten play with the Nebraska Cornhuskers coming to Champaign-Urbana. The match is slated to start at 3 p.m. CT inside the Atkins Tennis Center. The event is free admission.
The 2013 Fighting Illini are now 7-6 overall with a 2-0 record in Big Ten play. The Orange and Blue will look to shake off a three match losing streak, where they dropped to #27 Notre Dame and then tough matches to #1 Virginia and #2 USC.
Last year when Nebraska joined the Big Ten conference, the Cornhuskers and Illini squared off for the very first time. The match went convincingly in Illinois' favor as the Orange and Blue took the match 6-1. Tim Kopinski and Farris Gosea led the team with wins in both singles and doubles. Current senior Bruno Abdelnour also picked up a straight set victory.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
Nebraska will enter the matchup with an 8-6 overall record. The Cornhuskers have played one conference game thus far, dropping a 5-2 match at Northwestern. In February, Nebraska cumulated a five match win streak, defeating teams such as VCU, Creighton, Wichita State and Denver. Last weekend though, the Cornhuskers competed in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic where they lost two of three, falling to Boise State and Columbia.
Tom Blackwell and Dusty Boyer have found the greatest success this spring in singles competition. Boyer is 8-4 in 2013, going 6-2 in the three spot and 2-0 at the four. Meanwhile, Blackwell is 10-2 this season, compiling a 7-1 mark in the number five position. Andre Stenger has seen the most action at number one singles, going 2-6 in that spot as he is 3-8 overall.
This week the Illini dropped four positions to a familiar No. 19 position. In addition, the singles and doubles rankings carry over so Jared Hiltzik holds onto the No. 40 spot while Ross Guignon remains at No. 108. Furthermore, Guignon and partner Tim Kopinski are firmly planted in the No. 36 spot in the latest doubles rankings.
Finally, Nebraska is ranked 50th in the latest ITA poll and does not boast any ranked singles or doubles competitors.
DOUBLE THE FUN
The team's number one doubles tandem of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski are ranked No. 36 in the country and are currently enjoying a 6 match win streak as a pair. The duo scored a huge win over the No. 2 doubles team in the nation in Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger, winning 8-4. In fact, Kopinski/Guignon are 3-0 against doubles pairings ranked in the top-25 and are 4-0 in the number one position.
STARTING THE CONFERENCE OFF RIGHT
Illinois started the month of March with a pair of conference matches, as the Illini came out in full force to start 2-0 in Big Ten play. First, the Orange and Blue shutout the Hawkeyes 7-0. It was the first 7-0 win over a Big Ten opponent since the 2010-11 season, in which the Illini accomplished the feat against both Wisconsin and Penn State.
Furthermore, Jared Hiltzik, Ross Guignon, Tim Kopinski and Farris Gosea all enjoyed 2-0 weekends in singles competition. In fact, Kopinski cruised through the weekend as he did not allow either of his opponents to reach four games in any of their sets. More impressively, Gosea was the first to finish both his singles matches, winning 6-2, 6-1, in both.
BIG TEN TENNIS ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Two months into the competition slate of 2013 and the Fighting Illini can successfully claim they have had two players honored as Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week. First up was Tim Kopinski on Feb. 13. The award is Kopinski's first in his career and the first since alum Dennis Nevolo collected his 8th weekly Big Ten honor on April 3, 2012. The sophomore earned the honor after clinching the match against #7 Kentucky.
Then on March 6, freshman Jared Hiltzik won his first collegiate award. Hiltzik helped spur the Illini to a 3-1 record over a five day span, which included a 2-0 start in Big Ten play and a win over in-state foe Illinois State. Hiltzik went 3-0 in singles play in that stretch which included ranked victories over No. 120 Spencer Wolf and No. 97 Greg Andrews.
A PEEK AHEAD
The Illini will hit the road for two straight weeks, competing as the away team in Big Ten play for the first time this season. Next weekend, Illinois travels to Wisconsin on March 29 and then Minnesota on March 31. Then the Orange and Blue partake in a Michigan double-header with a April 6 showdown against the Wolverines followed by a April 7 matchup with the Spartans.