Hiltzik Reaches ITA National Indoor Final
FLUSHING, N.Y. - On a Saturday afternoon at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing N.Y., No. 17 Jared Hiltzik became just the fifth Illini ever to reach ITA National Indoor Championship final. The tournament final marks the best run in Hiltzik's young collegiate career.
Hiltzik's road consists of wins over No. 6 Marcos Giron of UCLA , No. 41 Campbell Johnson of California and Andrew Harris of Oklahoma. Today, the Wilmette native battled No. 8 Ray Sarmiento from USC in the semifinal round. Hiltzik cruised to a 6-2 first set victory but then found himself down 5-2 in the second set. The sophomore rallied, fighting off seven set points and forced a tiebreaker in which he won 7-5.
Hiltzik will meet yet another UCLA player Sunday morning, this time No. 74 Clay Thompson. The UCLA standout defeated two Oklahoma players, Axel Alavarez and No. 2 seed Guillermo Alcorto, on his road to the final. Tomorrow's showdown takes place at 10:30 a.m. CT.
"Jared showed today why he deserves to be in the finals," said Associate Head Coach Marcos Asse. "He's taken this tournament one match at a time and one point at a time. He was down big in the second set, a few set points, and battled back. I think the world of Ray, he was actually my Sportsmanship Award nominee, and he plays hard all the time so it wasn't easy. I've watch Jared grow some as a competitor this tournament. Hopefully Jared can keep the same attitude he's had and continue to improve throughout the match tomorrow. Clay Thompson is a fiery competitor and he's been playing very well lately, it should be a great final."
Hiltzik joins an elite Illinois group that have all reached the ITA National Indoor final, which includes Dennis Nevolo in 2011, Ryan Rowe in 2007, Ryler DeHeart in 2004 and Amer Delic in 2002. DeHeart was the sole Illini in the group to take home the national title.
Furthermore, Hiltzik was not the only Illini to find success in New York as the doubles team of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon made a run to the semifinals as well. The Illinois tandem battled the No. 1 seeded team of Libietis/Reese of Tennessee in a three-set thriller. Unfortunatley, the Orange and Blue came up on the short end, losing 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.