UI roundup | Illini upend Virginia

UI roundup | Illini upend Virginia

CHAMPAIGN — There's something about Virginia that brings out the best in the Illinois men's tennis team.

For the second time in the span of three years at Atkins Tennis Center, the Illini knocked off Virginia. This time, Illinois was the higher-ranked team — even though the Cavaliers are the defending national champions.

The ninth-ranked Illini breezed past unranked Virginia in doubles, and reeled off three victories in the first four singles matches en route to a 4-3 triumph over the Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon.

The final score was somewhat deceptive, as Virginia inched closer with two late match wins after the final result had already been clinched in Illinois' favor.

Regardless, in doubles, Zeke Clark and Aleks Kovacevic romped to a 6-0 victory followed by a 6-2 triumph from Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi to clinch the doubles point for Illinois (8-4).

The Cavaliers briefly tied the match at 1 when Matthew Lord knocked off the Illini's Noe Khlif, 6-2, 6-3, in singles.

Illinois responded with three straight singles wins from the likes of Chakravarthi (6-1, 6-2), Clark (6-4, 6-2) and Brown (6-2, 3-6, 6-1).

Brown, who played at the No. 2 singles position for the first time in his career, sealed the match win, as the Illini defeated Virginia for the first time since February 27, 2016, when the they topped then-No. 2-ranked UVA in a 4-3 thriller.

In wrestling

Martinez makes history. Nobody was going to deny Isaiah Martinez.

Martinez controlled the second period, amassing one minute, 20 seconds of riding time, picked up an early escape point in the third period and held off Penn State's Vicenzo Joseph for a 3-1 victory in the 165-pound championship match on Sunday afternoon in East Lansing, Mich.

The result: Martinez is a four-time Big Ten Champion, becoming the first Illini wrestler to accomplish that feat. Martinez joined a list of 16 Big Ten wrestlers to four-peat, including current Illini coach Jim Heffernan who did so at Iowa.

"That's what I love about this sport," Martinez said afterward. "You train so hard and you sacrifice so much. For me, the ultimate glory in this sport is lining up next to a guy who believes he's an equal."

The Illini's other Big Ten finalist — Mike Carr — suffered a 13-0 major-decision defeat at the hands of top-seeded Ohio State 141-pounder Joey McKenna.

With 62.5 points, Illinois placed eighth in the team competition — the Buckeyes won with 164.5 — and the Illini had five wrestlers clinch automatic berths into the NCAA Championships — Martinez, Carr, 184-pounder Emery Parker and 133-pounder Dylan Duncan and 125-pounder Travis Piotrowski.

Duncan placed third, Parker was fifth and Piotrowski was ninth overall in the Big Ten.

"I was really, really impressed with all of them," Heffernan said. "I think Mike (Carr) might have been a little shell-shocked in the finals, got caught in a tough situation early and that took him out of it. He did great job of getting there, and Dylan (Duncan) did a great job."

In baseball

Illini sweep weekend. No drama was needed this time around.

After staging late-inning rallies in back-to-back games, Illinois jumped out a big lead in Sunday's finale of the Big Ten/ Pac-12 Challenge and rolled to a 7-1 win over Washington at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Illini starter Ty Weber (2-0) blanked the Huskies for the first seven innings and pitched into the eighth. He allowed one run, scattered eight hits, struck out one and walked just one while throwing 59 strikes on 89 pitches.

Illinois (6-3) was the only team to go 3-0 at the challenge and clinched the nine-game, six-team event for the Big Ten Conference as a result.

In softball

Illinois claims title. Emily Oestreich and Taylor Edwards pitched Illinois to a title.

After the Illini hit the ball around the park on Friday, their pitchers took charge in back-to-back games.

Oestreich and Edwards led Illinois to a 2-1 victory over Northern Illinois in Sunday's championship game of the Coach B Classic in Carbondale. Carly Thomas' RBI single and Stephanie Abello's RBI double — both in the first inning — provided all the runs the Illini (8-6) needed.

In women's gymnastics

UI dominates tri-dual. Nicole Biondi, Bridget Hodan, Karen Howell and Rae Balthazor all collected individual titles and Illinois secured a season-high 196.700 team score to claim first place in Sunday's tri-meet at Huff Hall over Lindenwood and Bowling Green.

Biondi won the all-around title (career-high 39.425), Hodan won the beam title with a program and career-best 9.950 and Balthazor secured the bars title with a career-high mark of 9.950, the fifth-highest score in program history. Howell won share of floor title (career-best 9.900).