Men’s tennis ready for a win

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By Jim Shay

With an excellent first half of the season to build upon and a two-week hiatus behind them, a hungry, refueled men’s tennis team is looking to impress as it makes the trip to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend to take on Michigan State.

The match-up marks the start of Big Ten play for an Illini team that holds the No. 7 spot in the national rankings, even in light of a less than desirable showing at the National Men’s Indoor Championships two weeks ago.

Junior Ryan Rowe said the upcoming match with the Spartans is a chance for the team to make a resounding statement to open conference play.

“We want to send a message to the Big Ten schools that we’re coming out to play and we’re coming after you,” Rowe said. “I know (Michigan State’s) not doing so well right now, but they’re going to be out there gunning to beat us. They’ll probably come out and play some pretty good tennis and we’re going to have to get the job done.”

With two weeks to regroup and prepare for the second half of the season, the team spent much of its time working on conditioning. Senior GD Jones testified to the improvements the team made during the layover.

“It’s given us a chance to work really hard physically to get in the gym and do a lot of running,” Jones said. “We’ve definitely improved our fitness over the last two weeks.”

This weekend’s match also holds special significance for Illini head coach Brad Dancer, as he makes a return to his old collegiate stomping grounds in East Lansing.

Dancer played four successful years of tennis for the Spartans before graduating in 1993, and he will be facing his former coach, Gene Orlando on Friday.

“I’m going to be in front of a lot of friends and family up there,” Dancer said. “In that situation, it’s never easy playing against your coach, but it’s always about the players on the court and what they can get done.”

All distractions aside, however, Dancer is looking for his team to come out ready to build on its early season success.