COLUMN: Illini players beat season odds

By Bret Greenberg

Favorite story

The feature about graduating seniors Momei Qu and Alejandra Meza Cuadra was definitely my favorite piece because I got to know both of them a lot better.

Also, it was my first feature, so it was fun doing something different, although I doubt all the newspaper readers out there plowed through all 1,300 words of it.

Best game I covered

The best tennis match I covered was the match at home against Iowa when we swept the singles matches to destroy the Hawkeyes 6-1 on Senior Day.

At halftime, four Illini men’s basketball players showed up to play some doubles tennis. It was great.

Most challenging story

My most challenging story was the first away match I had to cover.

I had to interview the coach and players by phone while they were traveling home on a bus. I probably heard 10 percent of what they said on the other line because I could hear all the girls talking and a movie going on in the background. It was rough.

Play of the year

The play of the year has to be when Kristina Minor sealed the win for the Illini in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. First of all she was down a set and down 4-0 in the tiebreaker of the second set.

To top that off, the score of the match was tied 3-3 at the time, and the Illini pretty much had to win to make the NCAA Championships. She managed to fire back eight of the next nine points in the tiebreaker and won the third set. Unbelievable.

Best quote

The best quote I got all year was after the Northwestern match when the Illini lost 7-0. I was told “Northwestern was lucky to get out of here with the win.” The statement was later rationalized, but I still remember it.

Best interview

The best interview I had was when I turned on my recorder and let Kristina Minor and Annie McCarthy talk smack about Indiana and Ohio State. I was actually able to use some of it in one of my articles.

Most telling off-the-court moment

I would say apart from match performances, I was most impressed with how so many of the players genuinely wanted to get better.

I saw coaches working with players to improve anything from their serve to even their strides. But at the same time, they always tried to have fun and pump each other up.

Storyline for ’08-’09

I’m going out on a limb and saying that the Big Ten better watch out for these young Illini. I see no reason why they couldn’t make it to the NCAA’s again next year.

They are going to keep getting better, and the coaching staff knows what they are doing. Soon we might have two powerhouse tennis programs.