Pepperdine hands men’s tennis 2nd-straight loss

Many students left for spring break by going someplace warm. The No. 11 Illinois men’s tennis team did much the same as it traveled to Malibu, Calif., to take on No. 30 Pepperdine.

The result was not what the Illini were hoping for, as they fell 4-3 to the Waves Saturday afternoon.

“They’re always well coached and played with a tremendous amount of energy and intensity,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “It was definitely a tough match today.”

Pepperdine got off to a quick start as it swept doubles play to gain a 1-0 lead.

“They came out firing in doubles,” sophomore Dennis Nevolo said. “I think everyone was having trouble adjusting to the speed of the courts. It was just a little bit quicker than what we’re used to.”

Junior Abe Souza evened up the score for the Illini when he defeated Alex Llompart, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 3 singles for his second straight win.

The Waves responded as Mousheg Hovhannisyan defeated junior Johnny Hamui, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 4 singles. After falling behind 4-1 in the first set, No. 36 Nevolo battled back at No. 2 singles to beat No. 110 Sebastian Fanselow, 6-4, 6-3, to even the score at 2 for Illinois.

“I had to make some minor adjustments, because I actually went down a break in the first set,” Nevolo said. “Once I figured out how to play him, I just kept a good attitude and kept playing my game, and it all just worked out.”

At No. 5 singles, Pepperdine’s Finn Tearney topped freshman Stephen Hoh, 6-4, 6-3, snapping his seven-match singles win streak.

Junior Connor Roth then won a three-set thriller, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 over Daniel Moss to even the score 3-3 for Illinois.

“I was really going after my serve and in the second and third set I didn’t face a break point,” Roth said.

“I had been playing a little tentative throughout the second and third set, and in the last game I just decided I was going to go for my shots. If they went in they went in, and if they didn’t, they didn’t. I was able to hit a couple winners in the last game and was swinging out and just went for it.”

Dancer noticed Roth’s competitive drive when the match was on the line.

“He had good resiliency today,” Dancer said. “We just want to see a little more of that early in the first set. He’s had a tendency to not come out with the same intensity he needs to have but to his credit, he showed great resiliency.”

In the final match of the day, No. 40 Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine defeated No. 64 Marek Czerwinski 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 at No. 1 singles to give the Waves a 4-3 win. It was the second straight loss for the Illini.

Illinois returns to action Saturday when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on No. 71 Purdue in a Big Ten conference matchup.