UI tennis team reaches NCAA title match

UI tennis team reaches NCAA title match

Without a breath of hesitation, junior standout Kevin Anderson offered his take on the Illinois men's tennis team's chances prior to the NCAA tournament.

"I think we can win the national championship," he said.

A little confidence is going a long way.

The lowest seed in the Final Four, No. 10 Illinois inched to the brink of its second national title in four years with an unlikely 4-3 triumph against No. 3 Baylor in the NCAA tournament in Athens, Ga., today. Illinois will meet today's No. 1 Georgia-No. 4 Virginia winner at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Then again, these Illini (23-8) probably don't consider their bracket busting as unlikely. Coach Brad Dancer said before the tournament he expected a confident group. It found a way, despite dropping three of the first four singles matches against Big 12 champion Baylor (28-5). But the Illini closed strong — and dramatically — with wins from Ryan Rowe and Marc Spicijaric.

In the No. 5 singles match, Spicijaric, the tennis hero of Saturday's upset of No. 2 Ohio State, stumped Baylor's Matt Brown 7-6, 7-6. Spicijaric was coming off an upset of Ohio State's Devin Mullings, and he provided the key point today. In the No. 2 singles match, Rowe beat Michal Kokta 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.

Illinois followed a familiar path in regards to low seeds in the Final Four. The lowest seed has reached the title match every season since 1999, except for 2006. Three of those seven underdogs won the national championship. The Illini were in the Final Four for the third time in five years.

Illinois closed out Baylor's 10-match winning streak, days after ending the winning streaks of Western Michigan (11) and Ohio State (20).

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