Illinois men’s tennis kicks off Big Ten play at No. 3 Ohio State


Sidney Malone

Graduate student Oliver Stuart hits the ball during his singles match against Duke on Feb. 19. Stuart and his doubles partner, redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi, gain a spot at No. 61 after their performance against Fairleigh Dickinson on March 16.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

The 6-9 Illinois tennis team will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for their first Big Ten match of the season against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Illinois goes into Friday’s match after a hectic week, winning a match against Fairleigh Dickinson 4-0, getting blown out by No. 1 Florida 7-0, and winning a close 4-3 match against Central Florida.

The Illini overcame a lot to get two wins last week, and head coach Brad Dancer was happy that his team was able to persevere through the conditions and win two of the three matches they played.

“It was very hot,” Dancer said. “It was 90 degrees out. We had not seen that all week. Matchday came and it was hot, and I think a few of our guys were affected by that heat, but especially Olivier (Stuart). He was able to tough it out and grind through it at the end. It was a great effort by him.”

Friday will see the second meeting of these teams this season. Back in Illinois’ opening match of the season, Ohio State won in dominant fashion, with a 4-0 sweep in Champaign. Friday is a chance for the Illini to get revenge for their lackluster opening match, but the team knows that any Big Ten match is going to bring great challenges with it.

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Anytime you play on the road in the Big Ten it is tough competition,” Dancer said. “Both Ohio State and Penn State will be great challenges for us this weekend.”

Wednesday’s ranking refresh saw the Buckeyes drop from No. 2 to No. 3, but also saw some Illini individuals update their rankings.

No. 62 grad student Olivier Stuart held onto his ranking from two weeks ago. Solid performances in doubles from Stuart and his partner, redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi, broke them into the doubles rankings this week. The pair earned a spot at No. 61 this week.

Sophomore Hunter Heck moved up from his previous No. 117 ranking after beating the previously No. 61 Trey Hilderbrand on Friday, earning him a spot at No. 96 in singles this week. Additionally, Heck and redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve fell 15 rankings in doubles after dropping two close matches last week. Although they fell a long way, Heck and Horve are still ranked No. 50 going into this Friday.

These four will need to be playing at their best if the Illini are going to have a chance against an Ohio State team who has been ranked in the top five all season.

Action starts in Columbus at 5 p.m. on Friday.



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