Men’s tennis faces Big Ten opponents

By Jim Shay

After being swept 7-0 last weekend, Michigan State learned the hard way how flat-out scary the Illini are to compete against.

With two more matches slated for this coming weekend, Illinois will have an opportunity to leave an intimidating impression on the minds of its Big Ten opponents.

The Illini travel to West Lafayette, Ind., today to take on Purdue, before returning to the Atkins Tennis Center for Sunday’s face-off with Wisconsin.

Junior Kevin Andersen said he hopes the team can build on last weekend’s convincing victory over the Spartans.

“It was good for us to start off against a Big Ten team in that fashion,” Andersen said. “It’s always a good feeling, but it’s only one of ten matches. It’s been a really good week of training and we’re ready to take care of business on Friday and Sunday.”

Sporting an 8-3 record entering the weekend, the Illini have seen their success reflected in the national rankings as well, rising to the No. 5 overall spot this week.

Andersen emphasized that the team’s performance on the court trumps anything the national polls may suggest.

“I’ve always thought that if you take care of business on the court, those kind of things happen by themselves,” Andersen said. “If you get too bugged on them, I’ve never felt that it’s a positive influence. For us, we never even talk about rankings. We train hard and win matches and it’s just sort of a result of what we do on the court.”

For head coach Brad Dancer, the ultimate testament to the team’s success does not come from the national rankings, but rather in the perseverance and resilient attitude the players have shown so far this season.

“All it means is we’re fifth in the nation on March 7th,” Dancer said.

“I’m really proud of our guys for where we are right now. I think our guys have faced a lot of adversity. We just take it one match at a time, so I think the biggest thing for us is really try as hard as we can to prepare for this weekend against Purdue and Wisconsin,” he said.