Illinois men's tennis goes 1-2 at ITA National Indoor Championships

By Mike Gasick

The Illinois men’s tennis team entered the ITA National Team Indoor Championships with some of the nation’s top competition awaiting them.

The tournament consisted of the top 16 team in the ITA rankings.

No. 12 Illinois drew No. 2 TCU in its first round matchup. The Horned Frogs entered the match as the No. 5 seed and the Illini entered as the No. 12 seedbr.

The sophomore duo of Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzikbr won on the doubles side for the Illini. After the team of junior Julian Childers and freshman Pengxuan Jiang lostbr, the final match for the doubles point came down to court one’s match.

Junior Alex Jesse teamed up with senior Jared Hiltzik to take on TCU’s Cameron Norrie and Trevor Johnsonbr. The match was back and forth the whole set and Norrie and Johnson hit their way through the tiebreaker to give the Horned Frogs the doubles pointbr.

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On the singles side, the Illini could not get much going. Jiang was first off the court after he fell to Jerry Lopez, 6-2, 6-2br. Freshman Asher Hirsch and senior Jared Hiltzik were next off the court — they both fell in straight sets to their opponentsbr.

The Illini lost the match 4-0 and returned the next day to take on the South Florida Bulls, who they competed against earlier in the season in the Three Oaks Shootoutbr.

The Illini got off to another slow start in doubles — the teams of Childers/Jiang and Jesse/Jared Hiltzik lost to the Bullsbr. The duo of Vukic/Aron Hiltzik had their match suspended at 5-6br.

Jared Hiltzik got the Illini back on the board with a 6-1, 6-2 singles win over Dominic Cotronebr.

Every time South Florida managed a point, the Illini would respond with a victory of their own. With the score at 2-2, South Florida’s Ignacio Gonzalez closed out Jesse, 7-6, 6-3 to put the Bulls ahead by onebr.

The Illini again responded with a come-from-behind victory from Childers — He defeated Justin Roberts, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3br. Childers’ win tied the score at three, leaving the match between No. 12 Vukic and No. 7 Roberto Cid to determine the matchbr.

The sophomore again came through in the clutch, notching a 7-6, 6-4 victory to seal the match for the Illini, 4-3br.

The Illini would then come back the next day to face the No. 5 Oklahoma Soonersbr. All three doubles teams won at least five games but lost two straight to give Oklahoma the early 1-0 lead.

Senior Brian Page competed for the first time in the tournament, taking Jiang’s place to partner with Childersbr.

The Illini cut the Sooner lead to 3-2 after Jared Hiltzik knocked off Spencer Papa, 7-6, 7-6 but Oklahoma prevailed in the end, defeating Illinois 4-2br.

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