Illinois men’s tennis ready to close regular season with weekend in Michigan

By Martin O’Connor, Staff Writer

Illinois men’s tennis will wrap its regular season up this weekend with a trip to Michigan featuring matchups against Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan. The Illini currently have a 17-9 record and will look to avoid double-digit losses on the season with these upcoming matches. This is the team’s last chance to make their away record look a bit better, with it currently sitting at 3-9.

These will be the last two matches before the Illini head to the Big Ten tournament in Bloomington, Indiana. Illinois is coming off an impressive 2-0 weekend at home and is looking to carry that momentum into hostile territory. With much left to be decided in the Big Ten standings, sophomore Karlis Ozolins understands how important it was to finish out the season strong at home.

“In general to start a win streak (it was important),” Ozolins said. “Now that we’re going to Michigan, I think it was important to win these last two matches.”

The first match on Illinois’ plate will take place in East Lansing against a solid Michigan State team. Fortunately for the Illini, recent history is in their favor when it comes to this matchup, with Illinois being in the midst of a 23-game win streak against the Spartans. It’s been a long and challenging season, but the team is working as hard as ever to reach their full potential. Ozolins knows that all the work put in each and every day will help make that impact the team needs.

“Our coach always tells us, if you want to beat them you have to stay mentally stronger, longer than them,” Ozolins explained. “Cause eventually everyone can break down so it’s just a matter of if we can stay mentally strong, longer than our opponents.”

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After an afternoon with Michigan State, Illinois will head west to take on No. 7 Michigan in its last match of the regular season. Despite having a bit of a calmer schedule lately, Illinois is no stranger to highly ranked opponents this season, having faced No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 TCU, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 12 Duke, No. 14 North Carolina and No. 20 Wake Forest. This matchup will certainly be one of the tougher ones the Illini have had this season, but with a statement win on the line and the season coming to a close, the team has everything to play for.

“The last two, three weeks I’d said we’re working a lot physically, I think that has helped us lately,” Ozolins said. “Everyone’s trying to do their best in order to play their best. As a team we realized that we can beat any team if we are on our best day and if everyone does what they have to do. I think everyone now is just working to make sure that when that day comes we can perform.”

Illinois men’s tennis will take on Michigan State in East Lansing this Friday at 3 p.m. before finishing up another successful season on Sunday at 11 a.m. with No. 7 Michigan.


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