Illinois men’s tennis finished regular season on a high note

Illinois’ Ross Guignon attempts to return the ball during the meet against Pepperdine on March 14. The Illini will play in the Big Ten tournament.

Although campus was just about cleared out for the Easter weekend, the holiday weekend didn’t affect the crowd at Atkins Tennis Center. No. 10 Illinois took down Minnesota on Friday and Wisconsin on Sunday to complete their regular season. The Illini finished 20-7 and 9-2 in the Big Ten. 

The two wins at home also completed a perfect home record on the season for the Illini, finishing 11-0. The team’s coaches and players have been quick to point out the home court advantage all season, and not even Easter Sunday could phase the Illini faithful. 

“We have an atmosphere here at Illinois tennis that is kind of incomparable to just about anywhere else, at least that I’ve played at,” junior Ross Guignon said. 

The players’ parents made up a majority of the crowd on Sunday. The parent support is common for Illinois men’s tennis, but there were even more in attendance than usual on the holiday. 

The two Big Ten wins also gave Illinois a boost as they head into the conference tournament next weekend. The Illini held its second-place position, beating out Penn State and Purdue, who will be seeded third and fourth for the tournament. 

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position, but we can still play better,” head coach Brad Dancer said. 

Dancer is still looking for the Illini to get to their highest level of play, but his team made quick work of both Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Illini took down the Golden Gophers 5-1 and the Badgers 4-1. 

Although the results of the two matches were similar, each match’s lineup looked slightly different for Illinois. Now that Brian Page has returned from an arm injury, Dancer has been making changes to the bottom of the singles lineup and the doubles pairings for the past few matches. Dancer has also used lineup flexibility to give some of his top guns a match off. 

For Friday’s match, the Illini played without No. 52 Tim Kopinski, which was a drastic shakeup to the doubles pairings, as Kopinski and Guignon are almost always the top doubles team in the Illinois lineup. 

Sunday’s lineup once again looked different, as No. 13 Farris Gosea was given the day off. Gosea is atop the singles wins category for the team and has been a work horse all season, playing the top singles spot for the six weeks that No. 8 Jared Hiltzik missed action with a wrist injury. 

Kopinski was back in the lineup on Sunday and Gosea played on Friday. Dancer said both players were out of the lineup simply to get rested heading into the postseason; so there were no injury worries for either of them. 

Illinois will have to quickly switch its focus from the end of the regular season to the beginning of the postseason. The Big Ten tournament starts Thursday at Michigan State. The quick turnaround is nothing the Illini aren’t used to, as they’ve had one of the most hectic travel schedules of any team in the country. 

Although this weekend was Illinois’ last at Atkins Tennis Center, there’s little doubt that they won’t have big cheering sections for the conference tournament. 

“We’re just really, really excited to get in and play the tournaments, the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament and to bring home titles,” Guignon said. 

Brett can be reached at [email protected] and @Blerner10.