Illini Football: 2008 Season - Roster Information - History - Future Schedules
Illini Basketball: 2008/09 Season - Scholarship Chart - Depth Chart
NCAA Football: Preseason Rankings - Bowl Tie-Ins
Other UI Sports: Volleyball - Soccer

Friday, January 25, 2008

Around Illini Nation... Illini Tennis preview:

While the purpose of this blog will mostly be to cover Illinois football... I plan on throwing in some coverage of other Illinois sports.

If basketball didn't infuriate me, it would get fairly heavy billing (at least during the season itself, I don't plan on talking about any sports out-of-season except for football) ... but I also plan on throwing in a bit on non-revenue sports... in particular I'll try and do an at-least weekly post on baseball/softball this spring, and see how that goes...

but we will start off with a gander at the Illini Tennis program.

Last year the Illini, who have absolutely dominated the Big Ten for the last decade, failed to win either the Big Ten regular season or tournament... a disappointing result...

but, the Illini, seeded #10, came alive in the NCAA tournament, including a huge 4-2 upset win over #2 seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals and another program-defining win over Baylor in the National Semifinals... the Illini, however, were not enough for #1 Georgia, and lost 4-0 in Athens in the national championship game.

Still, it was a very pleasant ending to had been a very good, but not good-enough by Illinois standards, season.

Beginners Guide to College Tennis:
For those who aren't familiar with College Tennis, the season is typically split up into 2 halves. In the fall, players typically participate in individual tournaments, with dual matches between teams dominating the spring schedule. Illinois has 20 dual matches scheduled, plus up to 4 matches in the 16-team Indoor National Championships (not an official NCAA championship, hosted in Seattle this year), followed by the Big Ten Tournament (3-4 matches) which will be hosted by Iowa. Similar to basketball, all conference tournament champions, and a host of at-large teams, are invited to the 64 team NCAA tournament. The top 16 teams are seeded, and provided they have adequate facilities and no hostile or abusive mascots, will host the first and second rounds. Winners of the 16 regionals advance to the national tournament, which will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma this spring.

The Illini have 11 home matches scheduled (including the opener last Friday, in which the Illini defeated Ball State 7-0). All matches are free to the public (except for NCAA matches, if we host) and hosted at the Atkins Tennis Center (located west of Assembly Hall and the baseball field, parking is available off of Kirby/Florida Avenue if the fields are dry, and also at the Ubben Basketball Center.)

How matches work:
Matches use 6 courts (which are numbered, 1-6). The winning team is decided by the team that wins the most out of 7 available points (so 4 points wins the match).

Matches start off with 3 Doubles matches played concurrently on courts 1-3. In theory teams pit their best doubles pair against the best from the opposing team, and their second best against the opponents second best... and so on. Doubles matches are played to 8 games, and you must win by 2 games. Tiebreaks are used if matches get tied at 8-8. The team that wins at least 2 of the 3 doubles matches gets 1 team point (The "doubles point") and leads the match 1-0.

There is then an intermission, and then teams come out for the singles competition. There are six singles matches, with the match at court #1 being between the best players from each team, and so on down to the #6 singles. Each singles match is worth 1 team point, so the team that lost the doubles point would need to win 4 of the 6 singles matches to win the match, while the team that won the doubles point would only need to win half. Matches are best 2 of 3 sets to 6 games (just like what you usually see on TV), although once the match is decided they will sometimes shorten up the 3rd sets on courts that haven't been decided yet.

In tournament play (indoor nationals, big ten tournament, and NCAA's), matches are suspended as soon as a team has clinched victory (when one team wins 2 of the doubles matches, and when a team has earned 4 points during singles play)... during the regular season all matches are played to their conclusion.

Matches usually last for 3 or so hours before the victor is determined, but if you are in Champaign its really not a bad way to spend an afternoon or an evening... especially in the winter when the matches are indoors and you can go up to the balcony and watch 6 matches at once.

Illinois boasts the only tennis pep band in the nation (occasionally the Orange and Blues band will play during indoor matches) and one of the only tennis student sections in the nation (The Net Nuts, which can get a couple hundred students out to big matches). Usually there are a few hundred people at matches, and the team has built up a pretty loyal following amongst community members who are regulars at the tennis center.

A look at Illinois:
The Illini lost GD Jones (to graduation) and Kevin Anderson (who turned pro) from last years second place team.

Replacing them in the top 6 is Senior Brandon Davis and newcomer Waylon Chin. Seniors Ruben Gonzales and Ryan Rowe will form the heart of the team with sophomore Billy Heiser and Junior Mark Spicijaric playing 3 and 4 singles.

Here is the UI Roster, with starters against Ball State listed:
Name Year Hometown (Last School)
Ruben Gonzales SR Terre Haute, Ind. (Indiana University High School)
2 15 Ryan Rowe SR Moline, Ill. (Lighthouse Christian Academy)
3 70 Billy Heiser SO Vernon Hills, Ill. (Laurel Springs School)
Marc Spicijaric JR Wesley Chapel, Fla. (Saddlebrook Prep)
Brandon Davis SR Austin, Texas (St. Stephens/Texas Tech High School)
Waylon Chin FR Boynton Beach, Fla. (Florida Virtual School)

Calon Alpar FR Austin, Texas (Westlake High School)

Jordan Knue SO Western Springs, Ill. (Lyons Township)

Connor Roth FR Lisle, Ill. (Benet Academy)

Abe Souza FR St. Louis, Mo. (St. Louis University HIgh School)

Around the Big Ten:
To start the season 8 Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 75.
3.) Ohio State
21.) Michigan
27.) Wisconsin
40.) Penn State
41.) Minnesota
61.) Indiana
65.) Northwestern

Home schedule:
The Illini have a tough schedule, with five home matches against top 25 teams

Date Opponent Time
1/18/2008 Ball State W 7-0
1/25/2008 #1 Virginia 6:00 PM
2/9/2008 #19 Louisiana State 6:00 PM
2/29/2008 Michigan State 6:00 PM
3/1/2008 #12 Notre Dame 6:00 PM
3/8/2008 Purdue 6:00 PM
3/12/2008 #62 Texas Christian 6:00 PM
4/5/2008 #40 Penn State 12:00 PM
4/6/2008 #21 Michigan 12:00 PM
4/12/2008 #3 Ohio State 12:00 PM
4/13/2008 #61 Indiana 12:00 PM

No comments: