Illini men rout Indiana after loss to Ohio State



By Alex Iniguez

After an emotionally draining 5-2 loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday, No. 16 Illinois reversed the outcome on Sunday, defeating No. 38 Indiana 5-2. It was senior day in Urbana, and it was up to the fourth-year players to guide the Illini to victory. Seniors Brandon Davis, Ruben Gonzales and Ryan Rowe each exhibited great leadership and performance on the court in the Illinois (14-7, 6-2 Big Ten) win over the Hoosiers (14-7, 4-4).

In doubles play, the No. 29-ranked duo of Rowe and sophomore Billy Heiser was able to defeat Lachlan Ferguson and Phillip Eillers, 8-6, after some early struggles. Tied at one doubles match apiece, Davis, with the help of partner Waylon Chin, orchestrated a point-clinching comeback to win 9-8 (3), after being down 6-2.


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Senior night

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“We were all tired after that marathon of a match with Ohio State,” Rowe said. “I think we came out a little flat but there was some great leadership by Brandon helping Waylon get through the match and come back and get the doubles point. That really helped us to come out and have better energy in singles play.”

The Illini needed that energy in order to overcome Indiana, as the Hoosiers gave the Orange and Blue all it could handle in singles play. Indiana’s Eillers quickly defeated junior Marc Spicijaric, 6-1, 6-3, to start the second portion of the match, but Gonzales, ranked No. 90 in the nation, quickly responded by taking down Thomas Richter, 6-3, 6-2. Chin was also able to win a straight-set match, while Rowe, ranked No. 12, needed three sets to defeat Dara McLoughlin, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, and clinch the victory.

“We had fantastic crowds this weekend,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “We kind of took the crowd out of it (Sunday) with our play in doubles, but it was senior day, and our seniors carried us through.”

Saturday’s match marked the fifth time in six matches Ohio State has beaten Illinois. Despite playing in front of an energetic crowd at the Atkins Tennis Center, the Illini could not topple the feisty Buckeyes. Illinois started off wrong by losing the doubles point and never recovered. Rowe, Gonzales, Spicijaric and Chin each lost his singles match, while Heiser and Davis came out on top for the Illini.

Even with Sunday’s victory, Illinois still has plenty of work ahead of it. Dancer described the team’s play in doubles as “brutal,” and the Illini struggled in singles play as well.

“We want to be a championship team, but then we come out and have performances like this,” Dancer said. “We competed with good energy (Saturday). But if we can only do that one day in a row, then we shouldn’t have championship aspirations – that’s the bottom line. We’re either going to start playing every match with tenacity or we can alter our goals.”

Illinois has two more regular-season opportunities to sharpen its play, as it will travel to Minnesota and Iowa this weekend before heading back to Iowa for the Big Ten Championships on April 24.