Men’s tennis takes down Blue Devils; lost doubles point factors in fall to Vols

By Alex Iniguez

Momentum plays a large role in sports, and one win often leads to another. Despite carrying the momentum from a thrilling Friday night triumph over No. 15 Duke into Sunday’s match against No. 24 Tennessee, the Illinois men’s tennis team could not secure its second win of the weekend, losing 4-3.

The Illini started off poorly, and were unable to win the doubles point for the first time this season. Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales won at No. 2 doubles, but in the most crucial doubles match Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe were defeated, 9-7, by Kaden Hensel and J.P. Smith to give Tennessee the doubles point.

Tennessee then went on to take the first three singles matches, which secured a victory for the Volunteers.

Billy Heiser and freshmen Waylon Chin and Abe Souza all won singles matches for the Illini.

“Heiser’s last couple of matches, he has been up and serving for the match and lost,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “Today, he was able to serve out his match at 5-3 in the third set, which was a big positive for Billy.”

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    Chin and Souza played in shortened matches because Tennessee had already secured the victory. Souza was playing his first match with the Illini.

    Although Tennessee is ranked lower than Duke, Dancer said he knows the Volunteers are for real.

    “I thought we were better today than we were on Friday,” Dancer said. “Tennessee is a stronger team than Duke. If we’re going to win, we have to be more consistent over the course of a three-set match. We have a little too many ups and downs going on with our team. That’s natural in a tennis match, but we’re not good enough to take games off.”

    On Friday night, the Illini started fast by winning the doubles point but were stymied in the early singles matches. Duke won three of the first four singles matches before Chin and Brandon Davis dug deep and won on courts five and six to lead the team to victory.

    “Duke had a great atmosphere on Friday night,” Dancer said. “They had a bunch of people in costume and they were making a lot of noise. We overcame that, which was not so easy. Today, the atmosphere was not so tough, but the quality of competition was a bit stronger.”

    The quality of competition remains high for the remainder of the season, as the Illini take on LSU on Saturday before heading to the National Indoor Championships and Florida. The Illini then welcome Notre Dame to Urbana.

    “As a coaching staff,” Dancer said, “we’ve got to prescribe the best things for them to work on and then the guys have to take ownership and make sure they’re getting better. I think with the expectations that this team has, we’re going to need a lot of individual accountability.”