Ozolins, Illini men’s tennis looks to make statement run at Big Ten tournament

By Martin O'Connor, Staff Writer

With an inconsistent regular season in the past, the Illini look to refresh and conquer in their upcoming Big Ten tournament run. No. 4 seed Illinois (18-10) take on the No. 5 seed Nebraska (13-9) to start off their Big Ten tournament weekend. Singles star, sophomore Karlis Ozolins, finds himself ranked No. 23 in singles play and the sophomore will look to make a statement in this tournament.

Ozolins has had a strong spring season, he currently is the back-to-back Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week and he is both ranked in singles and doubles play. He’ll look to use the momentum he’s gained in his last two weeks of play to come out strong against Nebraska.

“Last weekend was an important weekend to get my ranking higher,” Ozolins said. “I think I did a good job.”

Ozolins has been a consistent player for the Illini throughout the season, but he looks back on the season with pride for what his teammates have accomplished as well. He has a fantastic doubles partnership with teammate junior Hunter Heck and they currently find themselves ranked No. 41 in doubles play. When looking back on the season, Ozolins has one favorite accomplishment so far.

“It has to be the win against Georgia,” Ozolins said. “It was my best win individually and our best win as a team as well.”

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    History favors Illinois in this upcoming matchup, as when the two teams faced off earlier this season it was the Illini that enjoyed a 4-2 home Senior Day victory over Nebraska. That being said there’s a lot more on the line in this matchup and the Illini will need to avoid being too comfortable ahead of this.

    “Nebraska’s whole season depends on this match,” Ozolins said. “I think they’re a good team, they have a bunch of good players and I think if we want to beat them we have to play our best game. It’s going to be a good match.”

    The team is coming into this tournament having played away in Bloomington just three weeks ago. Their recent match against Indiana has given the team some valuable experience playing on those courts, giving the Illini a slight edge over a Cornhuskers team that hasn’t played on those courts this season.

    On Friday, Illinois will kick off their Big Ten tournament against the No. 4 seed Nebraska at 10 a.m. CDT.

     

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