Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cavaliers too much for young Illini

It was Orange and Blue on both sides, but there were some major differences when the Illini hosted Virginia to the Atkins Tennis Center Friday night.

The Virginia Cavaliers, currently No.2 in the country, brought with them five top 50 players, including Michael Shabaz, the No. 3 player in the country who (with recent grad Dominic Inglot) won the NCAA Doubles Championship last year; Sanam Singh, an All American who earned the No. 12 spot in the country after winning three titles in the fall; and 16th ranked Jarmere Jenkins, a highly touted freshman who finishedthe fall with a 12-3 record.

The No. 15 Illini are an entirely different team.  With only five players returning from last year's team, one of whom (Meedo El Tabakh) is out with an injury, Coach Brad Dancer had just brought in five new players-freshmen Bruno Abdelnour, Brian Alden, Stephen Hoh and KU Singh, and University of Florida transfer Johnny Hamui.   It was a tall order to face the Cavalliers at the first dual match of the season

Though the Illini do boast the No. 2 doubles team in the country, they didn't play together against Coach Brian Boland's Virginia.  Marek Czerwinski teamed with Stephen Hoh.  Despite losing an early break, they kept it close and saved two match points before falling to Jarmere Jenkins and Houston Barrick, 8-6.  Dennis Nevolo partnered with Johnny Hamui for the only Illini doubles win, 8-5 over Michael Shabaz and Sanam Singh, but the doubles point went to Virginia as Connor Roth and Abe Souza fell to Drew Courtney and Lee Singer, 8-1.  Despite the fact that the scores were not that close, it was good doubles all around from two teams that specialize in the event.

It would not be too long before Virginia had the next two points.  Dennis Nevolo lost  to Shabaz, who beat the Illini in November to earn a spot in the semifinals of the USTA/ITA National IndoorsIt was then Drew Courtney over Marek Czerwinski for point number three, but it wasn't going to be a total shutout.

Abe Souza made up for his doubles loss with Illinois sole win of the night and it was an incredible match -- at least the second half.  As is the case with dual matches, it is impossible to completely follow six matches at once.  I kept my eye on court four, with Jarmere Jenkins leading Souza, 6-3,3-0.   It happened to be a time for my "walk around" to check on courts, so I decided to watch.  I was there just in time for some incredible points and Abe Souza's spectacular comeback as he would win six games in a row for a 6-3 second set.  Since the match had just been clinched (by Houston Barrick over Connor Roth), the third set was replaced by a 10-point match tiebreaker that the Illini won to put his team on the board.
The last matching standing was Stephen Hoh vs. Lee Singer and it was quite a match.  Despite the fact that his team had already lost the dual, Hoh was still fighting out there with set point opportunity at 5-3.  He didn't get that one, but he kept the pressure up, pulling it to a tiebreaker and saving two match points.  It was another match for Virginia, though, with Hoh falling 9-7 in the breaker.

Next up for the Univesity of Illinois men is the ITA Kickoff next weekend, where they host Virginia Tech, Boise State and the University of Washington in a fight for a place at the ITA Team Indoors in February.

Virginia 6, Illinois 1Michael Shabaz (UVA) defeated Dennis Nevolo (IL), 6-4,6-3
Sanam Singh (UVA) defeated Johnny Hamui (IL), 6-2,6-2
Drew Courtney (UVA) defeated Marek Czerwinski (IL), 6-4,6-2
Abe Souza (IL) defeated Jarmere Jenkins (UVA), 4-6,6-3,1-0(10/8)
Lee Singer (UVA) defeated Stephen Hoh (IL), 6-3,7-6(7)
Houston Barrick (UVA) defe Connor Roth (IL) 6-4, 6-3
Johnny Hamui/Dennis Nevolo (IL) defeated Sanam Singh/Michael Shabaz (UVA), 8-5
Jarmere Jenkins/Houston Barrick (UVA) defeated Marek Czerwinski/Stephen Hoh (IL), 8-6
Drew Courtney/Lee Singer (UVA) def. Abe Souza/Connor Roth (IL), 8-1
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