Tennis upsets Ohio State to advance to national semifinals

By Jason Grodsky

The No. 10-ranked Illinois men’s tennis team continued its run toward a national championship on Saturday with the biggest upset of the tournament so far.

The Illini knocked out the tournament’s second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes 4-2 in a four hour and four minute match at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Illinois came back from a 1-0 deficit after doubles for the third straight match to upset a higher seed.

“I told the guys before today that we could beat these guys,” Dancer said. “I told them that this was their day, and to go out and take it.”

In front of a crowd of over 2,000 Illinois fans, the Illini came back against a Buckeye team that was 30-0 this season after winning the doubles point.

Junior Kevin Anderson picked up the Illini’s first point of the match, beating Ohio State’s Byran Koniecko 6-2 and 6-1 in consecutive sets. Fellow Illini junior Ruben Gonzales gave Illinois a 2-1 lead with a come from behind win over the Buckeye’s Justin Kronauge.

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After Ohio State evened the match at 2-2, the Illini’s lone senior, GD Jones, put the Illini back in front 3-2 with a clutch victory over No. 11-ranked Chris Klingemann.

Needing just one point to seal the victory, Illini sophomore Marc Spicijaric outlasted Ohio State’s Devin Mullings to clinch the upset and send the Illini to the semifinals.

“Our guys believe in themselves because of their preparation,” Dancer said. “Ohio State is an unbelievable team and they raised the bar for us. We knew we had to work hard to match them.”

With the win, Illinois snapped a four-match losing streak to the Buckeyes and ended the Buckeye’s 20-match winning streak.

The Illini now face the No. 3-seeded Baylor Bears on Monday at 9 a.m. in the first national semifinal. The tournament’s No. 1-seeded Georgia and No. 4-seeded Virginia make up the remaining two teams in the final four.

Illinois (22-8) and Baylor (28-4) have never faced each other in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini are just the third 10-seed to make the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999 and it’s only the third time in Illinois history that the Illini have advanced to the semifinals, making it in 2004 and 2003. Illinois went onto win the national title in 2003.

“We know that we still have work to do,” Spicijaric said. “We didn’t come to Georgia to just be in the semifinals, we came to win a championship. We now we have to get focused and ready for Baylor on Monday.”