Illinois men's tennis returns to ITA Team Indoor Championships

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Illinois men's tennis returns to ITA Team Indoor Championships

Illinois' Jared Hiltzik makes a short return during the tennis game v. Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 20. Illinois won 5-2.

Illinois' Jared Hiltzik makes a short return during the tennis game v. Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 20. Illinois won 5-2.

Illinois' Jared Hiltzik makes a short return during the tennis game v. Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 20. Illinois won 5-2.

Illinois' Jared Hiltzik makes a short return during the tennis game v. Northwestern at Atkins Tennis Center on Feb. 20. Illinois won 5-2.

By Mike Gasick

The Illinois men’s tennis team will have to make sure it is on its game this weekend.

The Illini drew the No. 12 seed in the ITA Men’s Team Indoor Championships and will have to face the No. 5 seed TCU Horned Frogs. TCU is currently ranked No. 2 in the ITA rankings, and Illinois is No. 12. The tournament will take place at Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.

TCU is coming off its first loss of the season, at the hands of California, who is ranked No. 24 but stand at 3-1 on the season. All three of TCU’s wins have been against top-40 opponents (No. 18 Stanford, No. 28 Oklahoma State and No. 39 San Diego State). Illinois enters the match with a 5-1 record.

The Horned Frogs have three ranked singles players who will face the Illini on Friday at 2:30 (No. 6 Cameron Norrie, No. 38 Guillermo Nunez and No. 122 Alex Rybakov). Norrie recently dominated in a match against No. 3 Andre Goransson of California, 6-1, 6-3.

The Illini will send out three of their own ranked players in senior No. 10 Jared Hiltzik, sophomore No. 12 Aleks Vukic and sophomore No. 69 Aron Hiltzik.

Illinois is coming off a 5-2 victory against Notre Dame in which Vukic had his most dominating win of his college career. Vukic swept opponent No. 37 Quentin Monaghan 6-0, 6-0 to win his first-ever match without giving up a game. Vukic remained undefeated after his victory against Monaghan, maintaining a 5-0 record for the season.

The Illini competed in the National Indoor Championships last year and reached the quarterfinals after knocking off California, 4-0 in the first round. Illinois then lost to Georgia, 4-2 in the quarterfinal match. In a consolation match, the Illini defeated conference foe Ohio State, 4-2.

The tournament includes 16 teams across eight different conferences. Oklahoma won last year’s National Indoor Championships and enters this year as the eighth seed. The Sooners are off to a 3-2 start to their season. 

Virginia — who gets to play the tournament across Charlottesville from the University — will be the tournament’s No. 1 seed this year and will take on No. 16 San Diego.

Illinois battled against TCU in the 2015 spring season and fell 4-0. The team has won this tournament twice in the past, bringing home the championship trophy in both 2003 and 2004. Since the 2000 season, the team has failed to qualify for the tournament only twice.

If the Illini beat the Horned Frogs, they’ll play the winner of South Florida versus Ohio State.

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@mike_mgasick