Coach Dancer finds flaws in spite of success


Dean Santarinala

Freshman Waylon Chin readies his backhand to lead him and his partner to a 9-8 win in the tiebreak. The Illini went on to beat the LSU Tigers 6-1, on Saturday, in Urbana. Dean Santarinala

By Alex Iniguez

Complacency is something that Illinois men’s tennis head coach Brad Dancer doesn’t believe in. Despite the Illini’s decisive 6-1 win over No. 17 LSU on Saturday, Dancer was not pleased with the way his team performed.

“It’s good to get a win,” Dancer said. “We talked early in the week about getting another win streak going at Atkins. But from a performance standpoint, we have to get better.”

The match was practically over before it started. No. 12 Illinois (3-2) swept the doubles portion and won four singles matches before senior Brandon Davis dropped the team’s only match, on court six. Senior Ryan Rowe and sophomore Billy Heiser competed No. 1 doubles and were the first tandem to defeat an LSU pair, taking down Michael Venus and James Cluskey, 8-4. In singles play, Rowe, senior Ruben Gonzales and junior Marc Spicijaric scorched their opponents in straight sets, highlighted by Gonzales’ 6-1, 6-4 romp. Rowe, ranked 15th nationally, secured the victory for the Illini with his 6-4, 6-4 win over Colt Gaston of LSU.

“We had a tough loss to Tennessee,” Rowe said. “It was nice to come out here and play a team that we lost to last year and get a little payback. I think that’s going to give us some confidence going into our next matches. We came out and played some good tennis.”

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Heiser struggled to a tough win at No. 3 singles, topping No. 88 Jan Zelezny. The sophomore battled through the first two sets before Zelezny raced to a 5-2 lead in the third. At that point, Dancer went to court 3 and gave Heiser a piece of his mind, slapping the bench with rolled up sheets of paper. Heiser reacted by coming back to win, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

“We can’t be so soft,” Dancer said. “It’s funny because this is tennis, and you think it’s a country club sport, but the bottom line is that it’s also a gladiator sport. It’s like boxing. You can’t be soft, you can’t feel sorry for yourself, and we have too much of that going on with this team right now.”

The team will take this week to prepare for the USTA/ITA Men’s National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash. The 11th seeded Illini will tussle with No. 6 USC on Friday at the Seattle Tennis Club. USC is 7-0 on the season with wins over No. 27 Boise State and No. 28 California. A win would set up Illinois to square off with third-seeded Ohio State or Boise State in the quarterfinals.