Men's tennis suffer upset loss in NCAA tournament


Illinois’ Aleks Vukic attempts to return the ball during the match against Ohio State at Atkins Tennis Center, on Sunday, March 29. 

By Masaki Sugimoto

“It was a really tough match, and we are really disappointed that we came out on the wrong end of it,” Dancer said. “Our guys did a great job of coming back, and we made it a heck of a match.”

This match was the second time the Illini faced the Tar Heels this season. The Illini won the first match 4-3 on January 31 at the Atkins Tennis Center.

Illinois fell behind early once Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider beat senior Blake Bazarnik and freshman Aron Hiltzik to win the doubles point for North Carolina.

Illinois fought back in singles when freshman Aleks Vukic took revenge on Robert Kelly. Kelly bested Vukic in their last matchup, but Vukic got the better of Kelly this time, winning in straight sets.

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    “I felt like the matches were the same this time around,” Vukic said about playing at a neutral site.

    North Carolina took the next point easily when freshman Toshiki Matsuya lost in straight sets to Ebsen Hess-Olesen. Matsuya got the nod over senior Ross Guignon due to his strong performance against North Carolina in January.

    Senior Tim Kopinski tied the match 2-2 when he beat Brett Clark, coming back strong in the second and third sets to win 6-1 and 6-0.

    Aron Hiltzik brought the Illini close to clinching the match when he beat Jack Murray, giving the team a 3-2 lead.

    Brayden Schnur got the best of senior Farris Gosea — Schnur fell to Gosea in January. The match had a close first set, with Schnur beating Gosea 7-5. Gosea had a strong second set winning 6-2. Schnur won the third set 6-2.

    The match came down to a tense third set tiebreaker between Illinois junior Jared Hiltzik and North Carolina’s Ronnie Schneider. Schneider took an early lead, winning the first set 7-6. Hiltzik fought back winning the second set 6-4. But Schnur clinched the upset for the Tar Heels in the third set.

    “A big part of (the outcome) is because Ronnie Schneider is back in their lineup. He is a great player,” Dancer said. “He played fantastic in the third set against us.”

    This marks the end of a great run for Illinois. The Illini ranked in the top 10 this season, and they were the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    Some Illini will still be in action for the NCAA Individual Championships this week. Gosea and Jared Hiltzik were invited to compete in singles. Kopinski and Guignon will be competing in the doubles tournament.

    “Just got to leave it all out there,” Hiltzik said. “In the last match of the season, you can’t really hold anything back.”

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