No. 11 Illini win four matches in busy weekend

It may not have been the prettiest weekend, but the No. 11 Illinois men’s tennis team added its first Big Ten victory and three other wins to its record.

The Illini (11-3, 1-0 Big Ten) defeated Detroit Mercy, 5-0, Friday afternoon and narrowly edged Purdue, 4-3, in the nightcap.

The Orange and Blue followed the two Friday victories with another doubleheader sweep Sunday against Northern Illinois, 4-0, and St. Louis, 4-0.

“The weekend got better as it went on,” Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said. “As a coach, you’re always trying to make improvements as time goes on.

I think Friday’s performance against Purdue was certainly not the highlight of the season so far, so we challenged the guys after that. And no doubt about it, it got better (Sunday).”

 DI multimedia

Men take first Big Ten win

Click to view a slideshow.

The weekend’s matches served as a great opportunity for players that don’t see the court much to gain some crucial match experience.

Two players that haven’t played often this season, Abe Souza and Connor Roth, dominated the weekend.

Souza and Roth each tallied three singles victories, while the sophomores also played doubles in three of the four weekend matches.

Against Detroit Mercy, Souza and Roth were unstoppable. Each player only dropped one game apiece in their respective matches, and Souza went on to add another straight-set victory against Purdue’s Paul Foley, 6-1, 6-3.

“I was excited to get back out here again,” Souza said. “I heard my name called, ‘On Court Six, Abe Souza,’ and I was just pumped.

It was a really good opportunity to go out there, play my game and show the crowd what I can do.”

Sunday, it was all about the sophomore class yet again. Roth and Souza again won handily, and Waylon Chin also came out on top against Northern Illinois.

“Connor had a good weekend,” Dancer said. “He did a pretty good job in doubles, showing off his athleticism. In singles, he concentrated fairly well on the court. Connor’s one of those guys that has made significant improvements, and that’s one of the biggest reasons we added these matches this weekend.”

Against Purdue the Illini came out flat, and the Boilermakers narrowly took the doubles point to go ahead 1-0 in the match.

Illinois came out stronger in singles play, however, and was able to win four of the six singles matches to complete the come-from-behind victory.

Three Illini, including junior Billy Heiser, won in straight sets, while freshman Ruan Roelofse took three sets to defeat Eric Ramos, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“I wouldn’t say it was a resounding win, but it gets us started,” assistant coach George Husack said.

“Our goal this year is to win the Big Ten title, but we’re going to need a lot more energy across the board if we want to win the title.”

Illinois easily dismantled Northern Illinois on Sunday afternoon. Chin and Roth secured a quick doubles victory, shortly followed by a point-securing win from Souza and Roy Kalmanovich.

In the final match of the busy weekend, the Illini quickly topped St. Louis.

Chin and senior Brian Livingston defeated their Billiken counterparts, 8-2, and minutes later Roth and junior Meedo El Tabakh added another 8-2 score to take the doubles point.