Illinois men’s tennis finishes at Olympia Fields


Illinois’ Jared Hiltzik hits the ball back during the second round of NCAA Tennis Regionals against the University of Memphis at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on May 10. 

By Christopher Kennedy

The Illinois men’s tennis team put together a 14-7 record as they co-hosted the Olympia Fields Country Club Fighting Illini Invite in Olympia Fields, Illinois for the eighth consecutive year.

Four players competed for the Illini: Jared Hiltzik and freshman Aleks Vukic played their second meets of the fall, Tim Kopinski made his season debut, and freshman Toshiki Matsuya competed for the first time as an Illini. It was an early season meet for everyone and head coach Brad Dancer said there’s still work to be done.

“We didn’t string a whole day together where everybody played great,” Dancer said. “We looked a little bit rusty to be honest, I thought some things were just not as sharp as I’d like.”

Hiltzik entered the tournament as the preseason No. 6 player in the country. After competing at the American Collegiate Invite at the US Open a few weeks ago as a last-minute alternate, Hiltzik was back with his teammates at Olympia Fields.

“I started off pretty strong at the beginning of the tournament, I had a pretty good sense of where I had to be emotionally wise as well as physically wise in my game,” Hiltzik said. “The last match I kind of got away from that and let little things bother me too much”.

He put together a 3-1 performance over the weekend, losing only to Quentin Monaghan of Notre Dame. One of his wins came against No. 38 Connor Glennon of Memphis. In the spring, Hiltzik defeated Glennon as a big part of the Illini’s second round comeback win over the Tigers when he came back down a set and down 5-3 in the second set. There’s familiarity on the court, Hiltzik said, but there’s no animosity. Hiltzik said he thinks that he and Kopinski came out strong and did a good job pulling out victories. Kopinski is ranked No. 44 in the country and was the Most Outstanding Player at the Invite last year – a title awarded to the player who wins the most sets. This year Kopinski went 3-1 and tied for most points won with Hiltzik and this year’s Most Outstanding Player, Notre Dame’s Monaghan.

Freshman Aleks Vukic followed up a semi-final appearance at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships with a 3-1 mark at Olympia Fields, including a win over No. 99 Robbie Mudge of NC State, his third victory over a ranked player in his first two collegiate meets.

Toshiki Matsuya made his Illinois debut with a 2-2 record at the Invite. Dancer said he has great skills, but his performance was lacking.

“He did not command the court very well and he’s got the ability to do that,” Dancer said. “He’s got to be a lot clearer about what his purpose is. I think he got distracted by scoring situations … he can do better.”

Dancer thinks the Illini can be better as they move forward to their next competitions. Illini will compete at both the Alabama Four next weekend and the ITA All-American Championships, which begin on the 29th.

“We had some good wins, there was great competition there (at Olympia Fields), but we can do better,” Dancer said.

Chris can be reached at [email protected]