According to the NCAA, the fighting Illini Men’s Tennis team is ranked No. 8 in the nation.
Not too bad.
Amidst all the other spring sports that Illinois excels in, the tennis team has been as good as anyone else in the conference. Only Ohio State (No. 3) is ranked higher. If a 10-1 conference record (19-6 overall) hasn’t met your expectations, then the men will look to satisfy you when they head to the conference tournament in Iowa on Friday.
The No. 2-seeded Illini will face Penn State this Friday, which is the second day of the tournament. Illinois defeated Penn State 4-0 in University Park on April 15, making it seem like a good scenario for the Illini to advance to the next round.
As I mentioned, the team only has one conference loss, which was to (you guessed it) Ohio State back on April 14. Other losses during the season include No. 1 Wake Forest, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 5 Stanford way back in the non-conference season. So it’s easy to see that this was not a ho-hum schedule. These guys have been preparing for a deep run in the conference and NCAA tournaments for some time now.
The path to at least a shot at the Big Ten title seems quite possible. Assuming both Illinois and Michigan win in the first matchup, Illinois owns the season meeting when they defeated the Wolverines 4-2 on April 7. The Illini also defeated Wisconsin on April 20, but they did not face Maryland over the course of the season.
If you’re unfamiliar with the guys on the squad, there’s a few you should get to know.
In singles, Aleks Kovacevic, Alex Brown and Zeke Clark have been leading the way. In conference play, those guys are 7-0, 8-1 and 8-0, respectively. Overall, the men’s team is 44-12 in singles play and 13-12 in doubles play, so being able pull out a few doubles matches could really help the chances of advancing. The best doubles pair during the regular season was Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi, who were 19-8 overall and 6-4 in conference. No other doubles pair had more than two wins.
The tournament should be an exciting time for those of you who are tennis fans. Be sure to follow TCR on Twitter — we’ll be giving all the updates.