COLUMN: Ruben Gonzales steals spotlight

By Alex Iniguez

Favorite story

I really enjoyed writing about Ruben Gonzales. It was good to give him some recognition for his hard work, especially since he was out with a lung injury for a lot of last season. He’s obviously one of the leaders of the team and a great asset to Illini tennis.

Best game I covered

Even though the team lost, the second match of the season was my favorite. The Illini lost 4-3 to No. 1 Virginia after starting off the match strong. It was the first match I covered, and it kind of set the tone for the sort of intensity I’ve come to appreciate in college tennis.

Most challenging story

It’s always hard to write a recap of a match the team lost. I’d say the most difficult one to write was after the regular-season loss to No. 2 Ohio State. The team had high expectations and really wanted to win that match, especially being at home. It was so tough to interview the team after that loss, and then to write the article was just as tough.

Play of the year

It’s not exactly one play, but the entire team’s performance against then-No. 12 Notre Dame was dominating. That was one match where we went out and just absolutely stuck it to them. The whole team played well, and it was a great thing to see.

Best quote

Head coach Brad Dancer on senior Ruben Gonzales:

“Coaches use ‘special’ and ‘unique’ and those are the types of words to describe Ruben Gonzales. He’s one of my favorite human beings, and I love the kid to death. I just wish he could get accolades every week.”

Best interview

It seemed like every time I talked to Brandon Davis, he had something good to say. Dancer is always a good quote too. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. If his team underperformed, he’ll be the first to tell you.

Most telling off-the-field moment

The one thing that really sticks in my mind is how emotional the matches against Ohio State were. The team dislikes the Buckeyes, and both are annually in a dogfight at the top of the Big Ten.

Story line for ’08-’09

I really can’t wait to see how the team reacts to losing Gonzales, Davis and Ryan Rowe.