Sports Briefs 1/30/2012

*Men’s tennis*

The No. 15 Illinois men’s tennis team suffered its first defeat of the year at the hands of No. 18 North Carolina in the opening match of the ITA Kick-Off in Atlanta by a margin of 4-2. No. 2-ranked Illini senior Dennis Nevolo and freshman Tim Kopinski were the only Illini players to earn victories against the Tar Heels. Nevolo defeated No. 30-ranked Jose Hernandez 6-4, 6-1, and Kopinski also defeated Joey Burkhardt in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5.

Head coach Brad Dancer, in a press release, called the loss “bitterly disappointing,” saying “to be successful, we have to come together as a team, and that starts with the coaching staff and overall direction.”

Illinois will drop to the consolation bracket of the ITA Kick-Off with a 9 a.m. match against the event host, No. 19 Georgia Tech, on Monday.

*Women’s tennis*

Illinois women’s tennis had an up and down weekend at the ITA Kick-Off in Durham, N.C. The up was a 7-0 victory over Winthrop on Friday, the down was a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Duke the next day. Illinois won each of the six singles matches in straight sets against Winthrop and handily won the doubles point as well. The Illini struggled to compete with the No. 3-ranked Blue Devils, suffering straight-set defeats to four of Duke’s five ranked singles competitors. A bright spot in Saturday’s match was freshman Melissa Kopinski, who defeated No. 117-ranked Rachel Kahan after dropping the first set.

“We were right there battling with the third-ranked team in the country, so there are certainly a lot of positives we can take away from today,” Illini head coach Michelle Dasso said in a press release. “But do I think we can do better? Absolutely. Melissa Kopinski came up with a big-time singles win today and was very impressive throughout her match.”

The Illini return to the courts at home against SMU on Friday.

*Swimming and diving*

Sophomore Jessica Holz swam the fifth-fastest 200 back time in program history, but the Illinois swimming and diving team lost to a multitude of conference foes at Big Ten Quad Duels on Saturday. The Illini fell to 5-7 on the season after losing against Minnesota (314.5-51.5), Purdue (287-79) and Wisconsin (260-93) at the University Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.

Holz finished in first for the Orange and Blue and fifth overall in the 200 back with a time of two minutes, 1.57 seconds. Senior Brittany McGowan also finished in fifth place, this time in the 100 fly with a time of 56.94 seconds. Sophomore Erica Lynn and senior Kristen Manias both finished in the top 10 in their respective events.

Illinois’ relay teams placed fourth and eight in the 200 free relay, with times of 1:35.12 and 1:36.86, respectively, and fourth (3:27.69) and eighth (3:31.37) in the 400 free relay.

The Orange and Blue’s divers were led by junior Keri Eberhardt’s 11th-place platform dive score of 148.15, a personal-best and the sixth-highest platform score in Illini history.

*Men’s golf*

The Illinois men’s golf team made a successful return to the links over the weekend, defeating Illinois State in the Tinervin Cup in Coral Springs, Fla., where the Illini are a perfect 9-0 since the tournament’s inception in 2004.

“It was a good start for our team,” head coach Mike Small said in a press release. “We came down here to gauge where we are at both mentally and physically with our game. … This event did identify some issues we need to work on over the next couple of weeks so we can be competitive this spring.”

The morning portion of the one-day event featured head-to-head matches of two-man teams competing in a best-ball format, with each match worth one point each, and the Illini were able to come away with all three points. In the afternoon, Illinois won four of six singles matches to clinch the event by a score of 7-2.

The Illini continue their season with a return to the sunshine state for the Big Ten Match Play Championships on Feb. 10 in Sarasota, Fla.