Illinois splits spring break results on coast

By Lisa Koulias

The Illinois men’s tennis team began its week in California, the same way it has all season – with a win. The result on Friday night, however, was unusual for the Illini who lost to Pepperdine.

“Pepperdine was more prepared than we were,” said Illinois associate head coach Brad Dancer. “They deserved to win.”

Illinois won its first match on Wednesday 4-3 against USC. The Trojans jumped out to an early lead when USC secured the doubles point. The doubles point has been problematic for the Illini throughout the semester, which has been disappointing for the Illini because of their emphasis on improving their doubles, Dancer said.

Still, the Illini battled back when Illinois junior Ryler DeHeart tied the match at three.

DeHeart was one of only two Illinois athletes who went undefeated in the matches against both USC and Pepperdine. Illinois sophomore GD Jones was perfect for the week as well.

“Ryler really put us back on top (of the USC match),” Dancer said.

Although DeHeart was the one to even the score for the Illini, it was Illinois senior Chris Martin who sealed the victory for the Illini. Martin defeated Brian Wright in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.

Illinois head coach Craig Tiley was extremely pleased with his team’s results. Wednesday’s match – which was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was delayed because of rain – was “one of the best team efforts (he) had ever been a part of at Illinois.”

“I am very proud of the effort tonight,” Tiley said in a press release. “We were basically down the entire match, but the guys continued to show great competitiveness and fight to pull it out.”

The Illini were not as successful on Friday, when they lost 5-2 at Pepperdine. Dancer said Pepperdine simply entered the match more prepared than the Illini, which was why they were able to and deserved to win.

“They really outcompeted and outplayed us tonight, which is disappointing since we had such a great effort a few nights ago against USC,” Tiley said.

Despite the loss, the Illini should rebound quickly, Dancer said. However, the Illini’s next attempt to pick up a victory will not be easy. Illinois faces Stanford Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. CST.

“They’ll bounce back,” Dancer said. “As much as this is a team sport, it’s made up of individuals. We addressed what they can do both as a team and as individuals. I have no doubt that they can rebound as individuals and as a team.”