Men’s tennis heads outside for Big Ten weekend matches



By Alex Iniguez

Billy Heiser would rather play tennis outside than indoors. The sophomore feels the wind affects his opponents more than him, and because the matches are longer outdoors, his superior fitness can be utilized.

Fortunately, Heiser should feel more comfortable for the rest of the season as the No. 17 Illini men’s tennis team (11-6, 3-1 Big Ten) begins its outdoor schedule this weekend. The team will host Big Ten foes No. 43 Penn State on Saturday and No. 14 Michigan on Sunday.

Last match, Illinois took down its final nonconference opponent by defeating Kentucky 4-2. The team secured the doubles point with wins from the top two pairs, including another great performance from the No. 29 duo of Heiser and Ryan Rowe. The pair leads the Illini in doubles victories, winning its last seven matches and 13 of its last 16.

Marc Spicijaric has been on his game lately as well. The junior did not finish his match against Kentucky but won his previous five matches.

Illinois has won six of its last eight matches, including four victories against ranked opponents.

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    Despite a five-match home win streak at Atkins Tennis Center, the Illini will still have their hands full this weekend.

    Penn State (10-8, 3-2) should prove to be a worthy test for Illinois, but the Nittany Lions are a young team. While a core of three seniors leads Penn State, seven underclassmen are on its roster.

    In doubles, the Nittany Lions are led by No. 23 Michael James and Brendan Lynch, while James is ranked No. 63 in singles. According to Illinois head coach Brad Dancer, although Penn State is a young team, it has greatly improved since the last time the Illini took on the Nittany Lions.

    Meanwhile, Michigan boasts a 15-2 record overall and is a perfect 6-0 in Big Ten play. The Wolverines have defeated No. 16 Pepperdine and No. 17 Wake Forest, and are coming into Urbana with a nine-match win streak. The No. 34 doubles tandem of Matko Maravic and George Navas leads the Michigan attack, while No. 52 Maravic plays atop the Wolverines lineup in singles.

    After some scheduling confusion, the matches will be played in the originally scheduled order, with Penn State on Saturday and Michigan on Sunday. Both matches will start at noon at the outdoor courts at Atkins Tennis Center, weather permitting.