Illinois men’s tennis falls short at Midwest Regional

By Lucas Wright

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By Lucas Wright

Staff writer

The Illinois men’s tennis team came up short across the board at the Midwest Regional this weekend in South Bend, Indiana.

An Illini fell in each of the first four rounds, knocking out the hopes of nationals for each of the team’s members.

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    Redshirt junior Alex Jesse was the first to fall in the opening round. Jesse pulled a tough draw against No. 11 seed Stjepan Sisko of Toledo. Jesse took each set deep into tiebreakers, but he eventually lost 7-6 (5), 7-6 (9).

    Sophomore Toshiki Matsuya was the next elimination for Illinois in the second round. Matsuya took his first match from Michael Lorenzini in three sets but ran into the No. 1 seed Quentin Monaghan in round two. Matsuya managed to take a few games, but he dropped the match 6-3, 6-2.

    Coming off of his recent win at the Crusaders Invitational, redshirt junior Julian Childers seemed the most poised for a deep run at regionals. Childers breezed through the first two rounds, dropping only one set along the way. His tournament came to an end in the round of 16 against No. 20 seed Eddy Covalschi of Notre Dame. Childers was beaten in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.

    The final Illini remaining in the field was Aron Hiltzik. The sophomore entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed and said he had expectations of winning the title.

    Hiltzik struggled through his first two matches, dropping the first set in each. Head coach Brad Dancer said Hiltzik struggled to find his groove.

    “Throughout the tournament he just couldn’t get it right and get it where he needed to be,” Dancer said. “He just couldn’t put enough balls in play, and he wasn’t focused enough on surviving and advancing.”

    Hiltzik recovered in the third round to win in straight sets over No. 15 seed Martin Joyce of Ohio State, 6-3, 7-6 (4). But his tournament came to a close when he came across the hot hand of Northwestern’s Strong Kirchheimer. Hiltzik fell in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2.

    Hiltzik, who was dealing with a hip flexor injury throughout the tournament, said that his injury helped add to his difficulties during the tournament.

    “The injury was on my mind a lot and kept me from playing to my full potential,” Hiltzik said. “I just came out with the mindset of whatever happens, happens, and I just fought through to the end.”

    The Illini also had two teams in the doubles competition: Matsuya/Childers and Jesse/Hiltzik. Each of the duos made it through the first round, but the Jesse/Hiltzik combo fell in the second round, and Matsuya/Childers fell in round three.

    Moving forward, Dancer and his team is focused on the final few events, but taking the time to fine tune a few facets of its strategy going into them.

    “We continue to have our double teams’ issues plague us and it is very clear what needs to happen with them,” Dancer said. “We have to have more intensity and we have to serve better for our teams.”

    The Illini will have two weeks to prepare for their next events: The Big Ten Singles tournament and the Collegiate Clay Invite. The team will be sending players to each event, but the lineups have yet to be announced.

    Dancer said he expects to see more from his team in the coming days and tournaments and hopes that everyone will get back on track for the next event.

    “We can do better than how we did,” he said. “There’s no question about that.”

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