The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Heck, Ozolins continue to add to illustrious careers at Illinois

Volunteer+coach+Jayman+Jhattu+talks+to+Hunter+Heck+and+Karlis+Ozolins+in+between+plays.+They+all+huddle+to+discuss+strategy+during+the+doubles+match+against+Ohio+State+at+Atkins+Tennis+Center+on+Mar.+26.
Anne Schmidt
Volunteer coach Jayman Jhattu talks to Hunter Heck and Karlis Ozolins in between plays. They all huddle to discuss strategy during the doubles match against Ohio State at Atkins Tennis Center on Mar. 26.

Illinois men’s tennis plays in tournaments practically every week, and these reps are building serious momentum before the season begins. Players can judge where they stand in comparison to the best junior players across the country as well as areas that must be improved before the season starts. With that said, one doubles for Illinois has consistently shown that they are contenders.

Senior Hunter Heck and junior Karlis Ozolins dominated their competition in the Michigan-hosted ITA Midwest Regionals, defeating Ohio State 6-1, 6-2 in the finals. The win granted them a spot in the next stage of competition: the ITA Fall National Championships.

“It feels excellent,” Heck said. “Ohio State has been a tough team for us to beat in the past, and getting a couple of wins against them builds confidence going into the Fall National Championship.”

Illinois will compete in this tournament on Nov. 1, the first time an Illini has qualified in either draw since 2019. The leadership aspect is very important for Illinois’ model duo, who constantly strive to be the best examples they can be.

“Leading by example in practice and workouts,” Ozolins said. “Showing everyone to not complain and to have a good attitude. I try to do the same even though I am not a senior.”

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    If these two doubles partners can continue to lead by example, Illinois men’s tennis will be in a good position and have a strong mindset. Heck, playing his last year at Illinois, has high hopes for the upcoming season.

    “I would like to win a Big Ten championship,” Heck said. “Beat some top teams, and see how far we can make it with this group of guys.”

    Illinois won the Big Ten championship during Heck’s freshman year and this team, currently with four seniors, can guide the program to another trophy. All players will have to step up and realize that the team’s potential relies on communication and a shared mindset to win no matter what.

    The duo has had success in the past as well, reaching the Elite Eight in the spring.

    “We were very lucky to get into the NCAA tournament as an alternate, but I think we deserved to be there and we showed that … we have kept building on that gaining more confidence,” Heck said.

    With such success in the prior season, the hopes are high, as is the connection between Heck and Ozolins.

    Heck and Ozolins, along with sophomore Kenta Miyoshi, will represent Illinois at the ITA Fall National Championships. Miyoshi’s berth comes from back in September when he won the men’s singles title at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic.

     

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