Illinois goes 1-1 on road trip; loses to Virginia in 5-2 upset

By Eric Chima

The Virginia Cavaliers were without three of their top singles players from last year’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis team. They were younger, inexperienced, and ranked seven spots lower. But on Sunday, at least, they were better.

A year ago, Illinois pulled off a 5-2 upset win over the No. 1 Cavaliers. On Sunday, Virginia finally avenged that loss, taking the doubles point and first three singles points to rush out to a 5-2 upset over the No. 5 Illini.

“You have to tip your hat to Virginia,” coach Brad Dancer said. “They played well (Sunday) and are a good team who will be a force for the rest of the year.”

Last year, the upset began when Illinois upset Virginia’s top doubles team of Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey. They pulled off the feat again Sunday, with Kevin Anderson and Ruben Gonzales taking down the No. 7 doubles team in the country 8-6. That was where the similarities ended, though, as No. 8 Virginia would not lose another match until they had already sealed the win.

The Illini lost by scores of 8-5 and 8-4 at second and third doubles to lose the doubles point, then fell quickly at three of the singles spots. Junior Brandon Davis lost 6-3, 6-0 to Marko Miklo at No. 6 singles, Marc Spicijaric was defeated 6-1, 6-3 by Ted Angelinos at No. 5 singles, and Gonzales was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Huey at No. 3 singles to clinch the match for Virginia. Ryan Rowe and G.D. Jones were able to salvage three-set wins at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, but it was too late.

The most anticipated match of the day ended anticlimactically. Anderson and Devvarman, the teams’ top singles players, split the first two sets but did not play a third set because the match was already decided. Devvarman, last year’s NCAA runner-up, took a tiebreaker 10-8 to win the match.

Despite the early-season loss, Dancer said it left him optimistic for the rest of the year.

“I was really happy to see Rowe regain a hold of his match in singles,” Dancer said. “G.D. also did a great job of turning his match around…Overall, we were good spirited. If we continue to come out with that mindset, all of the rest of the things will fall into place for success.”

The match was the Illini’s second of the weekend, after a 7-0 blowout win Friday over No. 69 Ball State. The Illini took all three doubles matches to grab the early lead, then overwhelmed the Cardinals at the top four singles spots. Anderson beat Joe Epkey 6-2, 6-2, Gonzales topped Aaron Phillips 6-3, 6-3, Rowe crushed Jose Perdomo 6-1, 6-1, and Spicijaric beat Bret Berryman 6-3, 6-3. The bottom three singles spots went to three sets, but Jones and Davis pulled out two more Illini wins.

“I thought we looked more composed and aggressive in doubles,” Dancer said. “Overall, we looked sharp and have continued to improve every time we walk on the court, which is really exciting to see.”