Back on the road: Illinois men’s tennis travels to Nebraska, Wisconsin for two conference matches

Sophomore+Hunter+Heck+celebrates+a+point+won+during+the+competition+against+Michigan+State+on+Sunday.+Heck+has+moved+up+to+No.+74+after+winning+his+match+against+Michigan.+

Photo courtesy of Harry Figiel/Illinois Athletics

Sophomore Hunter Heck celebrates a point won during the competition against Michigan State on Sunday. Heck has moved up to No. 74 after winning his match against Michigan.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Following another 1-1 performance in the conference last weekend and a 4-1 win over nonconference Butler, Illinois heads into matches against Nebraska and Wisconsin with a 2-2 conference record and a steadily increasing 9-11 combined record.

Despite falling at the hands of No. 6 Michigan, Illinois put together an impressive Sunday, with a combined 10-2 score on the day over Michigan State and Butler. Heading into more away conference matches, a dominant Sunday was something the Illini desperately needed.

Illinois’ first match of the week features a match against Nebraska on Friday. The Cornhuskers are 5-13 overall and 1-2 in conference. The last time these two teams played was in April of last year when the Illini swept the Cornhuskers at home. Although everything is pointing to an Illini win on Friday, playing any team away from home hasn’t been the easiest for the Illini this season. The team is 3-6 away from Atkins Tennis Center, so Illinois will need to not get complacent in its travels to Lincoln.

Just two days later the team travels to Madison for a conference matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers boast a more impressive record than the Cornhuskers and the Illini, as they sit at 8-8 overall and 2-2 in conference. This match will have huge ranking implications come May’s Big Ten tournament. A win here would be one of the Illini’s biggest to date this season.

Illinois’ big weekend at home has paid off in the rankings. In singles, graduate student Olivier Stuart moved to No. 51 overall, while sophomore Hunter Heck jumped up to No. 74 after his 3-0 weekend, which featured a Court 1 victory and a win on Court 2 over No. 33 Andrew Fenty on Friday.

The doubles rankings refresh sees all three courts ranked for the Illini as the now Court 2 duo of graduate student Alex Brown and freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas moved into the rankings at No. 68. Redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi and Stuart’s tough showing sees them slip down to No. 64, while Court 1’s slightly lackluster weekend sees redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve and Heck drop down to No. 57. All of these players need big performances for the rest of this season if the team is going to repeat the heroics of last year.

Action for the Illini starts in Lincoln on Friday at 5 p.m. with the team’s match against Nebraska, before traveling on Sunday to Wisconsin for a match at noon.

 

@DrewFriberg9

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