Illini men’s tennis seniors prepare for final match

Senior day can affect players in completely different ways. Just ask the two on the Illinois men’s tennis team.

“Yeah, it really has (sunk in),” Roy Kalmanovich said. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and it’s an interesting feeling knowing that it’s coming to an end. But it’s been a great experience, and I definitely think four years is enough.”

“Not really,” Dennis Nevolo said. “It still feels like it’s just another match right now. Maybe it will sink in while we’re playing. It’s not something I’ve thought about too much.”

The two teammates will be playing their last home match at Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday against Purdue (10-13, 2-7 Big Ten). However, the team first must travel to Bloomington on Friday against No. 36 Indiana (18-8, 5-4).

The No. 20 Illini (13-6, 7-2) have lost three of their past five, losing back-to-back matches for the first time this season to No. 6 Kentucky and No. 3 Ohio State last week.

“We talked during the long bus rides about the standards we want to set for the program,” Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said. “We don’t feel like those matches against Kentucky and Ohio State measured up to that standard.”

Illinois moved up in the rankings by three spots despite the losses. The team currently sits third in the Big Ten standings behind Ohio State and No. 21 Michigan. The two Illini seniors headline the singles rankings, with Nevolo coming in at seventh and Kalmanovich at 30th in the nation. They are ranked 20th overall as a doubles pair and have posted a 7-2 record this season (6-1 in conference).

Indiana will commemorate its three seniors Friday during its senior day. It has been an up-and-down year for the Hoosiers, but they look to end on a high note and send their seniors out in style. A win for the Illini against the Hoosiers would even the all-time record between the two schools at 42 wins apiece.

“I think our guys are pretty good about focusing one match at a time,” Dancer said. “We lost to Indiana last year, and that was a pretty big low note on the year for us, so we’ll see if we can bounce back against them this time around.”

Purdue has lost three straight matches overall and is coming off of a six-match home stand. The last road competition for the team was April 8 at Iowa.

Despite the losses last week, Kalmanovich stressed the importance of learning something from each match and becoming better as a team.

“I feel we’re a little more experienced now,” he said. “There’s been more of an urgency to win because of the losses before. So I think that’s almost a good thing heading into these last two matches.”