Men’s tennis prepares for championship

Waylon Chin (left) and Brandon Davis compete in a doubles match April 12. Erica Magda

By Alex Iniguez

If you’re into cliches, you could say the No. 15 Illini (16-7, 8-2) are putting the regular season behind them, working hard and focusing on one match at a time as they hit the courts for the Big Ten Championship in Iowa City, Iowa. This may not be ideal, but Illinois is doing exactly that. After an up and down regular season, the Orange and Blue will face off Friday against the winner of the No. 37 Indiana and Northwestern match.

“We’ve been getting better and better as the season has gone on,” senior Brandon Davis said. “We’ve had some pretty adverse conditions throughout the year, so I think we’re pretty prepared. We played the top dogs as close as you can without winning, so I think it’s time to change that into some W’s.”

The most likely opponent for the Illini is sixth-seeded Indiana (15-8, 5-5). The Hoosiers gave Illinois a tough fight in their regular season match up, but ultimately, the Illini defeated Indiana 5-2 on Senior Day in Urbana. In the match, Waylon Chin and Davis clinched the doubles point, while No. 19 Ryan Rowe and No. 48 Ruben Gonzales continued their solid play. Chin again found himself in position to seal the Illini victory, and the freshman came through with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Michael McCarthy.

Despite some hiccups, Indiana is playing at a high level. While the Hoosiers lost their final match of the season 5-2 to Penn State, they had defeated No. 17 Michigan the previous day. Northwestern provided less of a challenge for Illinois when the two teams played March 29. The Wildcats could not win a match or set. Freshman Abe Souza recorded his fourth straight victory in the match, defeating Juan Gomez 7-6, 7-6, while Billy Heiser triumphed in a performance head coach Brad Dancer described as “a very clean win.”

“Indiana’s a tough team,” Davis said about the team’s most likely opponent. “They’re definitely feeling confident after beating Michigan. Every team you meet in the postseason is going to be tough. If we beat Indiana or Northwestern, we’ll probably play Wisconsin. They got us earlier in the year, but we’re going to be much more prepared this time. We’re going to just go out and absolutely destroy them if we play them.”

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Illinois has been playing with more confidence lately, as it defeated Minnesota 5-2 and Iowa 7-0 last weekend. The two matches were perfect tune-ups for the postseason, as the Hawkeyes will host the Big Ten Championship.

“We lost to Ohio State, we lost to Wisconsin, but we’re hungry,” Dancer said. “We made a good run last year, and our guys know we can potentially do it again this year. The guys know we had a similar situation last year, where we finished strong. We had Ohio State on the ropes in the Big Ten Tournament title match last year, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that again this year.”