Illini men’s tennis prepares for final home games versus Wisconsin, Nebraska

By Martin O'Connor, Staff Writer

Illinois men’s tennis will play their final home games of the spring season this weekend against Wisconsin and Nebraska. Atkins Center has been a fortress so far for the team, with seven home wins and one home loss to at-the-time No. 2 Ohio State. The team will look to keep up their impressive home record going against their next two Big Ten competitors. The team will also look to bounce back from their recent tough loss to Northwestern.

Playing at home this season has been very special for the Illini. Their home record speaks for itself as to how impressive they have been at home so far. Fans will hope that the Illini can continue this hot home form into these next two matches. Their match against Wisconsin will be Senior Day for the fans and their match against Nebraska will be a big night for graduate student Nic Meister, as it will be his last home match at Illinois.

“Every home game is important,” Meister said. “I’m going into it with the fact that someone’s coming into our home ground and trying to take the win. Personally I don’t want to give up that and I know the boys don’t want to lose those as well.”

After the team’s tough 4-3 loss to Northwestern, head coach Brad Dancer stated after the game that the team needs to be significantly better if they want to win close games like that. Graduate student Oliver Okonkwo understands that the team needs to remain focused in order to get these tough wins.

“Focus is the main point to be honest, that focus that we need to have in those matches,” Okonkwo said.

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The Illini are 9-1 in their last 10 matches against both the Badgers and the Cornhuskers. The team will look to rally behind their fans’ support in these matches as it has been a driving force as to why Atkins Center has become such a fortress for the Illini. Okonkwo speaks on behalf of the team when he mentions his love for the fans.

“The fans are unbelievable,” Okonkwo said. “The energy that we get from them, it propels you to do better, you stay focused, you use the crowd to draw energy from them. You’re not just doing it for your team, you’re doing it for the people who came out and took time out of their day to come and support you.”

Although the season has been very back-and-forth, the team is feeling good ahead of the Big Ten tournament. That being said, it still is important to look back on the season to see how much the team has improved. Okonkwo notes that as the season has progressed so has their training, the team has improved on pushing each other to their full potential.

“At the end of practices it’s fine,” Okonkwo said. “But during practice we’re going after each other trying to push each other to be better, I think it’s going to show towards the end of the season.”

Illinois men’s tennis plays Wisconsin on Friday and Nebraska on Sunday.


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