Tennis falls short of upsetting Virginia



By Alex Iniguez

In front of a rowdy crowd of 1,200 at the Atkins Tennis Center, the Illinois men’s tennis team dropped a close match to No. 1 Virginia, 4-3, Friday night. The night began well for the Illini, after capturing the first point of the match in doubles play.

Seniors Ruben Gonzales and Brandon Davis took down Virginia’s Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey, the No. 1 doubles tandem in the country, 9-7. Despite the success in doubles, head coach Brad Dancer knows there is still plenty of work to be done.

“Even though we won the doubles point, I was not very pleased with our execution,” Dancer said. “Our doubles have to get considerably better. I felt like Virginia kind of gave us the doubles.”

The Illini had a fast start in singles as well, with first set victories on four different courts before the tides began to shift.

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“We play for experience and we play to win,” Dancer said. “We did not finish. We put ourselves in great position to win the match and we didn’t get it done.”

Senior Ryan Rowe, sophomore Billy Heiser, freshman Waylon Chin and Davis all went down for Illinois at the hands of feisty Virginia players, while Gonzales and junior Marc Spicijaric rolled in their singles matches. Gonzales easily topped No. 12 Treat Huey in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

“I think I played pretty well, but there are a lot of things I still could have done better,” Gonzales said. “I prepared myself mentally and went out and executed. I could work on my returns and being more offensive. I just have to keep playing tough matches.”

On court three, Heiser played a tough match against No. 3 Dominic Inglot, but eventually fell 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5). Down 6-5 in an intense third set tie-breaker, Heiser had a comeback brewing before the chair umpire overruled a call, which won the game for Inglot, displeased both Heiser and the crowd, and all but extinguished the Illini’s upset hopes.

“I got the break early and tried to hold out till the end,” Heiser said. “I played a tough tie-breaker and that was a tough overrule at the end. Far sideline, match point, first overrule of the match. It wasn’t even a questionable call and it’s unfortunate that (the chair umpire) had to get involved like that. I played a good match, I fought hard, but I just came up a bit short.”

While the loss may sting now, it should supply the team with some confidence and focus before resuming its schedule, which includes two challenging road contests this coming weekend. The Illini will head to Durham, N.C., on Friday to take on the No. 16-ranked Duke Blue Devils, followed by a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday to battle No. 24 Tennessee.

“That’s our job as the coaching staff, to help the team be resilient and move on to the next one,” Dancer said. “We have plenty of matches to play, and how we respond is really going to be the best measurement of this team.”