Four Illini compete in Midwest Regional Championships

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The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ Zeke Clark celebrates with his team after winning his singles match to end of the match against Penn State at Atkins Tennis Center on Friday, April 12. The Illini won 4-3.

By Luca Ripani, Contributing Writer

The Illinois men’s tennis team traveled to Ohio State this past weekend for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s 2019 Midwest Regional Championships. The event kicked off on Oct. 18 with doubles main draw competition, with two Illini squads participating. First up was the Illini duo of redshirt freshman Alex Bancila and senior Vuk Budic. They faced Lars Peder Minsaas and Luuk Wassenaar of DePaul, defeating the Dutch natives, 8-5.

Bancila and Budic then advanced to the second round later that day, where they faced Brandon Ancona and Brian Pecyna of Valparaiso University. However, the Illini came up empty-handed, falling to the Crusaders, 8-7(5).

The other Illini doubles squad consisted of senior Zeke Clark and sophomore Siphosothando Montsi, with the pair receiving a first-round bye as the top seed in their bracket. The duo first faced John Carlin and Anthony Pero of Michigan State, with Illinois prevailing 8-4. The pair then moved on to play Guillermo Cabrera and William Howells of Notre Dame, another top seed. The Illini eventually fell to the Fighting Irish 8-7(5).

The singles main draw event saw more participation from the orange and blue, with the same four Illini players at the event each having separate runs. The first Illini up was Budic, facing fellow Big Ten player Chase Colton, representing Wisconsin. Budic defeated Colton in three sets, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Later that day, Budic faced Matt Gamble of Notre Dame, prevailing in two sets, 6-3, 6-2. Budic would continue until the next day where he faced top seed John McNally of Ohio State, playing on his home court. Budic would fall in three sets, 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4.

The next Illini up was Montsi, who took on Valparaiso player Gabriel Carvajal. Montsi won in two sets, 6-1, 7-6. Montsi then faced Notre Dame junior William Howells again in the second round. This time, Montsi was able to gain his revenge, winning in three sets, 6-0, 6-7(8), 6-2. Montsi survived until his next match, where he faced Andrew Fenty of Michigan, falling in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Following Montsi’s run was his doubles partner, Clark, who faced Luis Heredia Gomez of Marquette. Clark emerged victorious in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. Clark moved on to face another Wisconsin Badger, Lenard Soha, in the second round. There, Clark succeeded again, winning in three sets, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. The next day, Clark faced Northwestern’s Steven Forman, winning in three sets, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Later that day, Clark faced another Michigan Wolverine, Ondrej Styler. Clark’s Big Ten streak was destined to end there, however, as he fell to Styler in two sets, 6-3, 6-4.

The last Illini player to play in the event was Bancila, who faced Axel Nefve of Notre Dame in the first round. Bancila eventually fell to Nefve in two sets, 6-3, 6-1.

Although the Illini did not take home any hardware, the tournament saw players make several deep runs. Home court advantage ended up being important in the tournament, with OSU players Robert Cash and Andrew McNally winning the doubles main draw, while McNally also took home the championship for the singles main draw. The Illini now look forward to the Fayetteville 25K, where senior Aleks Kovacevic will represent the orange and blue.