Men’s tennis unable to recover against Waves

 

 

By Alex Iniguez

California is known for its sunshine and warmth, but it did not provide either to the Illinois men’s tennis team. The No. 12 Illini (9-5) suffered a 4-3 defeat at the hands of No. 15 Pepperdine (7-6) on Wednesday in Malibu, Calif.

“Pepperdine is a good team and they got us,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “I don’t like losing and we just have to find a way to get better if we’re going to win these matches on the road. I need to meet with the coaching staff and figure out exactly what we need to do.”

A staple of the Illini attack this season has been strong doubles play, yet the team could not get the job done in the doubles portion against Pepperdine. Illinois’ team of Marc Spicijaric and Connor Roth lost to Alejandro Moreno and James Lemke to start the match. Things became interesting when the No. 22-ranked duo of Ryan Rowe and Billy Heiser defeated Johannes de Villiers and Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine, 8-5. However, the No. 32-ranked tandem of Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales could not secure the doubles point for the Illini, losing to No. 20 Andre Begemann and Omar Altmann by a score of 8-5.

“Clearly, the doubles issues continue to haunt us,” Dancer said. “We keep losing at No. 3 doubles over and over again.”

Carrying the momentum from the doubles portion, Pepperdine was strong at the top of its lineup in singles. The Waves jumped out to early straight-set victories at the top two singles spots, with Illinois’ No. 9 Rowe and No. 80 Gonzales losing to No. 10 Begemann and No. 20 Beidas, respectively.

“I know Begemann is a really good player and he played tough,” Dancer said. “Against any good team, we’ve done well at No. 1 and No. 2 singles this year for the most part. It doesn’t matter who’s on your team – if there are good players there it is very difficult to have guaranteed victories.”

Abe Souza prevented an easy win for the Waves when the freshman defeated Alejandro Moreno, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Unfortunately, the deciding match came on court five when Waylon Chin could not continue the Illini comeback against Mahmoud Kamel, losing 6-4, 2-6, 2-6. After the match was decided, No. 76 Heiser defeated No. 123 Omar Altmann and Spicijaric took down James Lemke in an abbreviated match.

Had things happened differently in Chin’s match, the result may have been better for the Illini.

“Marc hung tough and you could see the tide changing in his match,” Dancer said. “They split while the match was still live, but I think if Waylon was able to hang on there Marc could have gone to a full third set, I think Marc was feeling pretty good out there.”

Illinois finished up its training in California before traveling back to Champaign, and the team is now focused on its next two matches. The Illini will battle conference foes Northwestern and Wisconsin on the road Saturday and Sunday.

“Right now we’re 2-0 in the Big Ten,” Dancer said. “We had the guys list their team goals today, and six or seven of the eight players listed their first goal as winning the Big Ten Championship. It’s a massive priority. We’re going forward and working at that really hard.”