Illinois finishes strong, topples Northwestern


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Kweisi Kenyatte celebrates after winning a point against Penn State at Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 19. The Fighting Illini rallied together after a few close matches and beat Northwestern on Sunday afternoon.

By Enji Erdenekhuyag, Staff Writer

With another match day comes another win, as the Illinois men’s tennis team defeated Northwestern 4-1 at home this Sunday, improving its record to 9-2.

Being the last pair to finish their doubles match, Hunter Heck and Kweisi Kenyatte found themselves playing to keep the doubles point alive after a loss on court three and a win on court one. Their back-and-forth rally with the duo from Northwestern entered into a tiebreaker but ultimately ended at a close loss (7-6).

Illinois was down a point for the first time in four matches, but they didn’t settle. From then on, the Illini refused to let the Wildcats take another point. Illinois went 4-0 in singles, as every player won their respective match in straight sets.

“I think we really showed our dominance on Northwestern, and I think that’s just about it,” Kenyatte said. “You know, we had a hard-fought doubles point that we lost, but we rallied. We pulled it together (and) had a dominant showing in singles.

“I’m sure they thought they had a lot of momentum going in, which naturally you would after a big win like that in doubles point, so we went back to the locker room, got fired up and we came out ready to go.”

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Head coach Brad Dancer said he was proud of the team’s efforts against the Wildcats in both singles and doubles play while adding that the players notably put themselves in winning positions throughout the matches. One player that particularly stood out to Dancer was Siphosothando Montsi.

Montsi swiftly finished his singles match 6-2, 6-1 and picked up his ninth consecutive win. The redshirt sophomore was named Big Ten Tennis Player of the Week on Wednesday.

“Siphs is growing,” Dancer said. “He’s maturing. We’re asking him to be more physical. He’s putting extra time in the weight room on his own outside of our conditioning, and I think that’s showing for him.”

Kenyatte, who dominated in singles (6-1, 6-2) also recognized Montsi’s success out on the court and couldn’t help but playfully comment on his teammates’ growing confidence.

“That boy is…one of the best players in this conference, and I think he shows that day in and day out,” Kenyatte said. “He has a big head, so I don’t wanna make his head any bigger, but the kid’s talent is one of a kind. It’s almost like he was born to play tennis sometimes. You see some of the shots he hits and his effortless way he goes about things on the court — you just have your mouth open half the time.”

The Illini extended their winning streak to five after an overall impressive show-out from all the players.

With plans of keeping the momentum going, the team will travel to Indiana Friday and Purdue Sunday.

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