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

No. 23 Illinois men’s tennis travels to Notre Dame for season’s seventh match

Sophomore+Kenta+Miyoshi+celebrates+his+victory+against+Duke+on+Friday.
Matt Stepp
Sophomore Kenta Miyoshi celebrates his victory against Duke on Friday.

No. 23 Illinois men’s tennis heads to South Bend, Indiana, to play against Notre Dame this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Illinois is filled with momentum after getting two wins over No. 17 North Carolina and No. 8 Duke in the past three weeks. Graduate student Oliver Okonkwo clinched the Illini’s most recent win over the Tar Heels (5-7, 6-3, 6-3), marking the end of a five-match stretch against top-25 teams where they went 3-2.

Notre Dame is coming off a home doubleheader sweep over Auburn (5-2) and Toledo (4-0) last Sunday. Before those two wins, Notre Dame lost to No. 13 Michigan (6-1) in Ann Arbor. 

These two programs met last season and Illinois dominated (7-0), but a lot has changed for Notre Dame. The veteran group that matched up against the Illini on courts two through four last season is no longer with the Fighting Irish. A much more flexible style has emerged for them this season, with three different players appearing on courts two and three in eight matches.

Whether this gives Notre Dame a boost or not, Illinois is focused on maintaining its pace. The Illini have moved into the rankings and are eager to continue climbing so picking up wins, such as this, is a necessity.

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The top half of the lineup has been instrumental to Illinois’ success thus far. Junior Karlis Ozolins (4-1) and senior Hunter Heck (3-1) have been excellent on courts one and two respectively, on top of Heck (2-0) and sophomore Kenta Miyoshi (2-1) combining for a 4-1 record on court three. The Illini have also taken the doubles point in four of their six matches so far, helped in large part by a 6-0 record on court two. Their cohesive teamwork, strategic moves and unwavering determination have propelled them to the upper ranks of tennis.

Behind Illinois’ on-court success lies the valuable contribution of their coaching staff whose dedication and expertise have played a pivotal role in shaping the team’s trajectory. Led by head coach Brad Dancer, the coaching staff at Illinois prioritizes preparing their players both mentally and physically for the challenges that lie ahead. 

The first serve against Notre Dame is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast on Notre Dame’s tennis livestream. The Illini are back at home in two weeks for Baylor on March 1 and TCU on March 2.

 

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Matt Stepp
Matt Stepp, Visual Director
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