No. 6 men’s tennis looks to defeat Texas A

 

 

By Jim Shay

Revenge will weigh heavy on the minds of the men’s tennis team this weekend as the sixth-ranked Illini await their Saturday-night showdown at the Atkins Tennis Center against visiting No. 20 Texas A&M.;

The Aggies, who enter the match with an unblemished 4-0 record to begin the season, will be looking to duplicate last year’s victory in College Station, Texas.

The Illini, however, are prepared to do everything in their power to let the Aggies know that they have much different plans.

“Last year we lost to A&M; and I think the whole team has a bad taste in their mouth,” junior Ryan Rowe said. “It was a close match, and we want to come out and show them that we’re better this year.”

The Illini, fresh off two hard-fought victories over Duke and Tennessee last weekend, certainly have looked impressive in compiling a 4-1 record.

Part of the early-season success can be attributed to a gritty mental toughness that has allowed the team to pull off some close victories against several formidable opponents, and the Illini hope to bring that same mentality to the court on Saturday.

“I thought we were really mentally strong against Duke and Tennessee,” senior GD Jones said. “Those were tough matches and we had to really fight to win. That’s a strength of our team and we’ll be looking to continue to do that.”

Texas A&M; fields a very strong doubles squad, featuring the 13th-ranked duo of Bryan Wooten and Mike Beatty, as well as the pairing of Matt Bain and Conor Pollock, ranked 44th nationally. Saturday, however, is the first time this season the Aggies will face a ranked opponent.

While Illini head coach Brad Dancer admits the match will not be an easy task for his team, Dancer said he is confident that his players will meet the challenge head-on and show why they are one of the best teams in the nation.

“You just never know who’s going to step up for us on a given day,” Dancer said. “They all have to think that they’re that guy that day, and that’s what makes us good, when everybody’s thinking, ‘It’s my turn today.’ They’ll be hungry, we’ll be hungry, and it should be a great college tennis match.”