Illini men’s tennis wraps up fall season

Illinois+head+coach+Brad+Dancer+observes+a+match+during+the+tennis+game+v.+Northwestern+at+Atkins+Tennis+Center+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+20%2C+2015.+Illinois+won+5-2.

Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Illinois’ head coach Brad Dancer observes a match during the tennis game v. Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Illinois won 5-2.

By Lucas Wright

The Illini opened the tournament in the doubles portion with the pairings of freshmen Asher Hirsch ssand Aiden Jiang along with sophomore Toshiki Matsuya and redshirt junior Alex Jesse. The Matsuya/Jesse pairing was the No. 2 seed ssin the draw and proceeded to live up to its ranking throughout the early rounds, while the team of Hirsch and Jiang fell in the first round 6-1 ssto the Lamar Remy/John Zordani team from Wisconsin.

Matsuya/Jesse made it through the round of 16 with a 6-4ss win over Jeremy Lynn/Jesse Sprinkel of Minnesota and then topped the No. 3 seeded team of Ben Lieb/Matt Galush from Penn State in the quarterfinals 7-5.ss

The run came to an end in the semifinals for Matsuya/Jesse, who fell 7-6ss to the unranked Christian Lutschaunig/David Kohan pairing from Penn State. Illinois struggled to close out the match late, forfeiting match point on six different occasions.

Despite the tough loss in the semifinals, head coach Brad Dancer was optimistic about the progress of his doubles teams.

“I think some of the problem was just missed execution on returning,” Dancer said. “But it is small progress, we just needed to execute better and we could win that title.”

Following the doubles tournament, the team turned its attention to the singles portion where each of the four competed in the draw.

As the first round began, Jiang continued to struggle, dropping his first round match to Lutschaunig of Penn State, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-2.ss Jiang did recover and win in the first round of the consolation bracket before being eliminated. Also falling in his first match was Jesse, who went down by way of Davis Crocker of Michigan, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5. Jesse also won one match in the consolation bracket.

Hirsch rebounded from his rough outing in the doubles portion with a first round win over Colin Harvey from Michigan State, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.ss Despite the long match, Hirsch preferred being tested in the early going as opposed to getting an easy win.

“I like the tough first match so that I can just work myself into the tournament,” Hirsch said. “It just helped build my confidence.”

Hirsch added another win in the round of 32 over Lieb of Penn State, 6-0, 3-6, 6-2, sshis deepest run in a tournament throughout the fall season. Hirsch’s run came to an end in the round of 16, where he met up with Toby Boyer of Nebraska, who took down Hirsch in straight sets 6-3, 7-5.ss

Matsuya rounded out the Illini foursome and followed his strong showing in doubles with a win in the round of 32 over Jake Jacoby of Iowa, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. ssMatsuya would ultimately fall in the round of 16 to Kevin Wong of Michigan, 4-6, 6-3, 2-6.ss

Although the Illini did not advance past the round of 16 in singles, Dancer was upbeat with what he saw and thinks it will translate well moving forward.

“Everyone did things that they were capable of and we saw some elite plays come out,” Dancer said. “They just need to identify with their games better so that they can play more comfortably moving forward.”

[email protected]