Illini men’s tennis sweeps Buckeyes


Illinois’ Jared Hiltzik attempts a short return during the tennis game vs. Ohio State at Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday. Illinois won 4-0.

By Christopher Kennedy

The tide is turning for the Illinois men’s tennis team against the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s been a one-sided rivalry between the Big Ten’s top two teams for the last few years, dominated by the Scarlet and Grey. But on Sunday, the No. 3 Illini swept the No. 11 Buckeyes for their second win over OSU this season, after only three victories since 2005.

The win snapped Ohio State’s 97-match regular season Big Ten win streak and it’s the Illini’s first sweep of Ohio State since 2002.

“We did a good job in doubles and staying focused,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “(In singles) enough guys showed up and got the job done to get a team victory.”

Illinois defeated the Buckeyes 4-2 in February at the ITA Indoor National Championships. On Sunday, the Illini controlled the match, and started by taking the doubles point. The doubles pair of seniors Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski was once again split up, an experiment Dancer broke out on the team’s trip to Texas two weeks ago. Dancer says distributing the duo’s doubles prowess to other courts helps the Illini’s doubles play.

Guignon and freshman Aron Hiltzik defeated No. 55 Hunter Callahan and Chris Diaz 8-5. Senior Farris Gosea and freshman Aleks Vukic clinched the doubles point with a 8-5 win over No. 74 Mikal Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen. Kopinski and junior Jared Hiltzik’s doubles match went unfinished.

Three of the Illini’s hottest hands this spring completed the sweep. No. 50 Vukic won against No. 83 Steinbach 6-2, 6-1, No. 22 Jared Hiltzik defeated No. 32 Torpegaard for the second time this spring, 6-2, 6-4 and No. 42 Kopinski beat Callahan 6-1, 6-3.

Vukic is 13-1 and hasn’t lost since January, Kopinski is 14-3 and Hiltzik is 15-1 — his sole loss to Texas’ Soren Hess-Olesen, the No. 2 player in the country.

Gosea returned to the team after serving a two-week suspension for a violation of team rules. He played in the No. 2 singles spot for the first time this year behind Jared Hiltzik, who took over the top singles spot during the team’s Texas trip.

Gosea contributed in two doubles wins with Vukic, but struggled in singles. He lost to Penn State’s Leo Stakhovsky on Friday and was up 6-2, 4-3 to OSU’s No. 44 Chris Diaz when the match ended.

The match against Ohio State was the second conference victory of the weekend for the Illini, who defeated Penn State 6-1 Friday afternoon. The test of the conference slate continues for Illinois next weekend. Illinois heads north to Michigan for a pair of road matches at Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan on Sunday.

Dancer said another victory against a highly ranked opponent is another positive sign moving forward.

“We’ve obviously played a lot of great teams this year and Ohio State’s another one of those great teams,” Dancer said. “We’ve been tested in and out again and again. It’s a good sign from us that we’re dialed in the way we are right now.”

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