Monday, April 25, 2011

Illini Split Among Results On Final Big Ten Weekend

It was the final weekend of the season and all the matches seemed to have a lot riding on them.  I was home at the University of Illinois to watch the Illini men battle both Minnesota and Wisconsin, while keeping an eye on the rest of the Big Ten.
Minnesota arrived in Champaign-Urbana on Friday night and they were ready to do battle. They immediately swept the doubles in three close 8-6 matches. KU Singh quickly answered back for the Illini with a win and then teammate Johnny Hamui put the Illini in the lead.  The matches would continue to stay even as Gophers Brendan Ruddock and Tobias Wernet won their matches and Illini Abe Souza brought in his. It was all even at 3-3, with one very long two setter left on Court 2.

Illinois’ Roy Kalmanovich and Minnesota’s Rick Bonin had been going at it for hours, with long points that had some incredible finishes. It was Bonin who took the first set at 7-5, but Kalmanovich was definitely not going down easily. At 5-4 in the second for the Gopher, the llini saved two match points and tied the score at 5-5. He played through another match point when down 5-6 to bring it into a tiebreaker. The breaker belonged to Rick Bonin, though, and Minnesota took the match from the home team, 4-3.

Heading into the Illinois-Wisconsin match on Sunday there was the possibility that the Big Ten men could be left in a three way tie (with Michigan) if the Badgers won the match. The Illini seemed determined at the start to make sure that wasn’t going to happen. They took the doubles point with only a loss at No. 1 and then -- after a tribute to seniors Johnny Hamui, Abe Souza and Connor Roth, proceeded to sweep the singles, securing fourth place in the conference for the team.

Ohio State would once again take the conference lead outright on the men’s side with a perfect 10-0 and they would be followed by Indiana, whose only Big Ten loss of the season came to the Buckeyes this weekend.   In third place was the University of Minnesota.  Michigan finishes off the top five on the men’s side and takes the top spot for the women, with Northwestern in second, Purdue and Ohio State tied for third and Wisconsin in fifth.

Look for my previews of the Big Ten Championships over the next few days.
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