Illini men’s tennis has yet to appear in a fall match

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Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Illinois’ Jared Hiltzik swings for the ball during the second round of NCAA Men’s Tennis Regionals v. Drake at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Illinois won 4-2.

By Lucas Wright

The seasons are off and running for most Illinois fall sports teams. However, for the Illini men’s tennis team, the beginning of the season keeps getting further away.

Illinois was scheduled to begin its 2015 fall season on Sept. 11 at the Olympia Fields Country Club invitational, but the event was canceled a few weeks prior.

The Illini shifted their attention to next event on their schedule taking place on Sept. 18-20 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. However, once again Illinois will not compete, this time due to a withdrawal.

Although the team hasn’t been able to get into action against other college teams, this time off has allowed for the team to focus on other matters, according to sophomore Aron Hiltzik.

“The biggest thing right now that we’re working on is building a team culture that makes us all closer together,” Hiltzik said. “We’re still all getting used to each other, we’ve got some new personalities, and so we’re just trying to build a culture that is always positive.”

The Illini will have until Sept. 25 to keep building their team culture before their first match, which will take place in College Station, Texas, at the Conference Challenge. The three-day event will test the Illini, as it will be the first time the whole team will be together this season.

Illini shine at individual events

Outside of college play, several Illini have taken to individual matches to test their play. One of the most successful throughout the summer and recently has been senior Jared Hiltzik.

Hiltzik has been featured in many events, but has focused mainly on the $15K Futures events that have been taking place across the United States. These events have allowed Jared, and some of his teammates, to rack up points on the pro tour while still being involved on the college team.

Hiltzik’s highest finish in a Futures event came this summer in Godfrey, Illinois, where he made it to the finals, and he also reached a quarterfinal at a Challenger event in his hometown of Wilmette, Illinois.

Hiltzik is competing this week at a Futures event in Canada, but he will be back with the Illini when they travel to Texas A&M.

Assistant coach says season will be a toss up

Throughout recent memory, the Illinois men’s tennis team has been one of the more consistent and dominant teams in Illinois athletics.

However, the loss of key players from last year, combined with the addition of two freshmen has led to uncertainty in the mind of associate head coach Marcos Asse.

“There’s always a lot of speculation this time of year,” Asse said. “I’ve gone from feeling like this team could win a national title to feeling like we could be dead last in the Big Ten and everything in between.”

The Illini will have to fill the gaps left by last year’s seniors Farris Gosea, Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski, who each left their marks on Illinois with All-Big Ten performances and NCAA tournament appearances.

Expectations are high for the incoming freshmen, but no one is sure yet of what impact they will have on this team.

“At this point it is just going to be a matter of only time will tell,” Asse said.

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