Illinois men’s tennis secures two wins against Michigan State, Butler after loss to No. 6 Michigan


Sidney Malone

Redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve hits the ball to Baylor’s side during his doubles match with partner sophomore Hunter Heck on March 4. Horve and Heck won their doubles match against Michigan State 6-0 on Sunday, and the the Illini winning overall 6-1.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

A long weekend of play at home has concluded with Illinois winning two of its three matches, winning against Michigan State and Butler on Sunday, but losing to No. 6 Michigan on Friday.

The two wins moved Illinois to 9-11 on the season. After a relatively unimpressive start to the year that saw the Illini sit at 1-5 after just three weekends of play, the roster has turned things around and started to find form, going 8-6 since their match against Duke in February.

This week, play started indoors at Atkins Tennis Center on Friday with the Illini’s fifth top-6 opponent in the last month. The No. 6 Michigan Wolverines caused many problems for the Illini early, as they took the doubles point. The Wolverines continued to roll, winning two more singles points until the Illini got on the board with sophomore Hunter Heck defeating No. 33 Andrew Fenty on Court 2 6-4, 6-4. From there, Michigan would see out the match with a clinch on Court 6, winning the match 4-1.

This match moved the Illini to 7-11 on the season. Two more losses would have been disastrous for the Illini, but they were able to turn it around on Sunday.

Two days later, Atkins saw further action with the Illini taking on the Spartans of Michigan State. Bouncing back from such a severe loss on Friday was made easier by the team’s dominant performance in doubles. The pair of Heck and redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve made quick work of their opponents with a 6-0 win on Court 1, with redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi and graduate student Olivier Stuart clinching the point due to a 6-4 win on Court 2.

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Singles saw the Illini keep their momentum, starting with Heck’s 6-1, 6-0 win on Court 1. Afterward, senior Nic Meister followed with a 6-2, 6-3 win on Court 5, and Stuart clinched with a 6-2, 6-3 victory on Court 3. The teams kept playing despite the match being over, and the Spartans would only see victory on Court 2. Horve won his match on Court 6 in a third set tiebreaker 7-6(5), and graduate student Alex Brown finished out the action for Illinois with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 win on Court 4. Illinois won 6-1 and moved into their afternoon match 2-2 in conference play so far this season, and 8-11 overall.

Just two hours after the completion of their match against Michigan State, doubles play began on the outdoor courts again against Butler. The team is incredibly happy to be back outside after playing indoors for so many months.

“I’m very happy to be back outside,” Horve said. “It’s good to have the sun out, good to have the wind. I think that benefits a lot of our guys, just being in Champaign where it is always windy means we get a lot of good training in that. I think we are all excited to be back outdoors.”

With the wind on the team’s side heading into doubles, the Illini kept cooking. A Court 3 win from Brown and freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas saw the Illini take an early advantage in doubles. Heck and Horve would follow, clinching the doubles point. The Illini took the lead 1-0 going into singles.

Singles in this match went much differently than before. Early wins from Horve and Guzauskas on Court 4 and Court 6 respectively put the Illini up 3-0 in the match. Strong comebacks from many Bulldogs on different courts saw them take one point back with a win on Court 5, forcing the Illini to grind out one last win for over an hour before the match would be completed. Heck’s win in the third set on Court 2 ended the contest before the Bulldogs could take advantage in this shift in momentum. This match was closer than the 4-1 scoreline suggests.

Although it wasn’t a perfect weekend for Illinois, the team is still trying to take positives away from the weekend. Getting two wins after being dominated on Friday is no small feat.

“It was a good bounce back for me and for the guys overall,” Horve said. “I think this is what we needed to get us on the right track moving forward.”

The Illini will travel to Nebraska and Wisconsin in their next week of matches, looking for two more conference wins that would see them move to 4-2 in conference and 11-11 on the season.



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