Illinois men’s tennis heads into final weekend of conference matches against Indiana, Purdue, Eastern Illinois


Sidney Malone

Redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi eyes the ball during his doubles match against Baylor with partner graduate student Oliver Stuart on March 4. The Illini are about to wrap up their regular season this weekend with matches against Eastern Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Following a dominant upset over No. 28 Northwestern that saw it only drop one singles match on the day, Illinois now takes on its last three regular-season opponents at home, with matches against Eastern Illinois and Indiana on Friday followed by Purdue on Sunday.

Ending the regular season at home is big for the Illini. Atkins has been instrumental in the team’s success, as they boast a 7-5 home record despite a poor 10-13 overall record. 

With elements such as wind, fans and home-court advantage being on the Illini’s side, the team has more confidence that they will come out on top at Atkins as they switch to outdoor matches.

“I think it adds a different element,” said senior Nic Meister of the wind before the team’s match against Northwestern. “Especially when the weather is just now turning and you are mostly practicing indoors. It’s nothing everyone hasn’t played in before, the wind, the cold, whatever it may be. It just adds an extra layer of mental toughness to the match.”

On Wednesday, the team announced an extra match added to their schedule, as they plan to welcome the Panthers of Eastern Illinois at 10 a.m. on Friday to kick off their final weekend of play. The Panthers are 20-3 on the season and are currently on a four-loss streak. 

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Eastern Illinois and Illinois have faced off against each other 17 times in total, with the Illini coming out on top in 16 of the meetings. This upcoming match between the two teams points to a similar result.

Illinois’ penultimate conference match of the season occurs just five hours after first serve against Eastern Illinois, as they take on Indiana at 3 p.m. The Hoosiers currently sit in last place in the Big Ten, with an 7-0 record in conference. On an eight-win streak against the Hoosiers currently, the Illini won last year’s matchup with a comfortable 4-0 sweep. A repeat of this result looks to be on the cards, as Illinois have three returners from last year’s match.

The Purdue Boilermakers are the Illini’s final match of the regular season and will play on Sunday at noon. Currently, Purdue sits just below Illinois in the Big Ten standings in eighth place. The result of this match will directly impact both teams’ postseason play. The Boilermakers sit at 9-12 on the season overall, having a very similar season to the Illini. 

Sunday’s match is also senior day, which will honor redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi and graduate students Alex Brown and Olivier Stuart.

Last week’s stellar performance by the Illini was reflected by this week’s ITA rankings, which see three doubles lineups and and two singles players in the top-125.

Stuart’s stalemate against his opponent dropped him just two rankings from last week, as he now ranks at No. 61 overall. Sophomore Hunter Heck’s win on court 1 over No. 30 Steven Forman earned him a 33 ranking jump, to No. 65 overall. This victory also earned him Big Ten Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week honors for this week.

Brown and freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas’ court 1 victory over No. 66 Forman/Nordby moved them back into the rankings at No. 71. redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve’s absence meant that his doubles ranking alongside Heck dropped to No. 60. Stuart/Montsi did not play as a team either, meaning their rank dropped to No. 79.

A busy final regular season weekend for Illinois sees it earn an extra chance at finishing the season with an even record, and potentially a top-5 Big Ten finish.

Action at Atkins starts on Friday at 10 a.m. with the team’s match against Eastern Illinois, followed by Indiana at 3 p.m. Just two days later, senior day kicks off with a match against Purdue at noon.



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