URBANA, Ill. - The No. 25 Illinois men's tennis team had a deja vu moment Saturday night, as they once again dropped to No. 15 Tennessee, 4-0. The Illini created a thrilling moment early on as the doubles point came down to a tie-breaker in the third match, but the Volunteers claimed the point and carried the momentum into singles play. Tennessee moves to 10-0 on the year as the Illini drop to 3-3.
"Hats off to Tennessee. It's tough to come to Atkins in back to back weeks and pull off wins," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "Though, that's certainly not the standards that we want to have. We'll see if we can turn it around next week and get ourselves ready to face Kentucky."
The Illini came very close tonight in turning the page and securing their first doubles point of the 2013 season. Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon started the night off on the right note as they defeated Edward Jones and John Collins in the number two doubles matchup. Tennessee would bounce back with a win in the one slot as Mikelis Libietis and Jarryd Chaplin topped seniors Bruno Abdelnour and Stephen Hoh 8-3.
Thus it came down to the number three doubles match between Jared Hiltzik and Fariss Gosea and Tennessee's Hunter Reese and Brandon Fickey. The duo of Hiltzik/Gosea found themselves trailing 4-0 at one point but kept fighting. With their backs against the wall down 7-5, the Illini tandem won the next two games to tie the match at 7-7. However, the Volunteers capitalized in the tie-break, 7-5, to take the 1-0 lead.
The Orange and Blue then looked to recapture the singles competition magic they produced just 24 hours ago against #5 Duke; unfortunately, Tennessee had other plans.
The Volunteers bumped their lead to 2-0 when Jarryd Chaplin defeated Tim Kopinski 6-3, 6-2, in number three singles. The score moved to 3-0 after #9 Mike Libietis emerged victorious over Stephen Hoh 6-4, 6-3, in a very hard fought match in the one slot. Finally, Tennessee claimed the match after John Collins downed freshman Brian Page 7-5, 6-3 in number five singles.
The Illini displayed true fighting spirit in the three matches that went unfinished. #114 Jared Hiltzik, who clinched the game-winning point over #5 Duke on Friday night, battled #40 Hunter Reese to a score of 3-6, 3-4. Senior Bruno Abdelnour was the lone Illini to earn a first set victory as his match ended 7-5, 3-4. Next, Ross Guignon was in a tight match with Edward Jones, as his score abruptly ended 4-6, 3-3.
Up next, the Illini wrap up their home stand inside the Atkins Tennis Center next weekend when they host #9 Kentucky on Saturday, Feb.9, at 6 p.m. CT.