Editorial: Appreciate the underdog sports


Football and basketball are great sports, but they are not the only sports on this campus that students should pay attention to and appreciate. This University is home to some extraordinary athletes, and some of them partake in sports that many students don’t always bother to go watch.

Men’s tennis player Aleks Vukic earned two Big Ten wins during the weekend of April 8-9 against Iowa and Nebraska.

The victories earned him Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week — his fourth of the season.

Yes. Fourth.

Only Ohio State’s Mikael Torpegaard has also received the award multiple times, and that was just twice.

Vukic has achieved an 84-11 singles record during his time at Illinois and was named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American last year.

We’re guessing this is the first time many of you have heard of him (excluding the Net Nuts crew who willfully shows up to each match to support the men’s tennis team).

The many accomplishments that athletes who don’t play football or basketball achieve are underappreciated at the University. Vukic, softball pitcher Taylor Edwards or even two-time national champion wrestler Isaiah Martinez aren’t household names for the majority of University students.

Fans can certainly have opinions about which sports are most entertaining, but the athletes who aren’t out on the gridiron or basketball court work just as hard.

And they need your attention because they deserve it.

Former Illinois men’s golfer Thomas Pieters recently finished fourth at the Masters, a major tournament in professional golf. We strongly advise our readers to learn Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy’s names because they too may very well be representing the University along with Pieters in a future PGA tournament.

But it’s not just our golf and tennis teams. Women’s gymnastics also had multiple athletes bring in individual honors throughout their seasons. Lizzy LeDuc and Mary Jane Horth led the Illini with several individual titles on bars and the balance beam to help the team finish fourth at the NCAA Regional.

Football and men’s basketball have recently made a lot of positive noise off the court and are in the process of forming a winning foundation: However, there are many other athletes and teams dominating at Illinois right now. It’s a shame that many of them go unnoticed and unappreciated on campus.

So, Illinois fans, take a moment to turn away from the football and basketball teams. Attend a game, match or meet to better appreciate the talented athletes we have at the University.

It’s nice leaving an event here after a win — a feeling Illini fans don’t often have after football and men’s basketball games.

Fans can watch Vukic and the tennis team at home at the Atkins Tennis Center on April 21. Our reporters and staff will be there. We suggest fans go too because trust us, Vukic is really good.