Illini, Buckeyes to square off

Illini, Buckeyes to square off

EAST LANSING, Mich.  — Bring on Ohio State. Again.

The Illinois men’s tennis team will get a chance to win its second Big Ten tournament title in the past three seasons at 11 a.m. Sunday against the heralded Buckeyes after the second-seeded Illini blanked sixth-seeded Michigan 4-0 on Saturday in the semifinals.

Coach Brad Dancer has the Illini in the conference tournament title match for the seventh time in his nine-year tenure. Illinois won the doubles point against the Wolverines before Blake Bazarnik, Alex Jesse and Farris Gosea won singles matches to clinch the win.

Bazarnik and Jesse won 8-6 at No. 3 doubles, and Jared Hiltzik and Gosea won 8-4 at No. 2 doubles to claim the doubles point.

Bazarnik won the first singles match for Illinois, posting a 6-3, 6-1 win at the fourth singles slot, while Jesse won 6-1, 6-3 at the sixth position. Gosea, ranked 17th in the country, ended the match with a 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 2 singles for his 11th straight singles victory.

“The guys responded well after losing clarity in doubles,” Dancer said. “We have to set a better standard in doubles play. In singles, we battled. We didn’t give an inch.”

The Illini won all three of their matches against Michigan this season and will look to avenge a 5-2 loss they sustained March 30 at Ohio State. The two teams are meeting for the ninth time to decide the Big Ten tournament champion since 2004. Ohio State holds a 5-3 edge in the previous eight tournament championship matches between the two schools.

“We look forward to playing Ohio State,” Dancer said.

In men’s track & field:

Joseph wins title.
Vanier Joseph claimed his second straight 110-meter hurdles title at the Drake Relays as Joseph was the lone Illini to win an event at the prestigious meet in Des Moines, Iowa.

Joseph placed first in 13.68 seconds, his second-fastest time this season. He is ranked second in the nation in the event, and the victory gave Illinois its 67th all-time individual title at the Drake Relays.

Illinois added runner-up finishes in the 1,600 relay (3 minutes, 4.24 seconds) and
the sprint medley relay (3:18.38).

In softball:

Wolverines sweep Illini.
A day after recording an impressive victory against No. 4 Michigan, Illinois lost both games of a doubleheader Saturday at Eichelberger Field, falling 10-2 in the first game and 6-5 in the second game.

It was the final two home games of the season for the Illini (20-25, 4-16 Big Ten) and featured a reunion of the 2004 team that placed second in the Big Ten. Alex Booker and Jenna Mychko played their final games at Eichelberger.

“Mychko and Booker mean a lot to me, my staff and their teammates,” UI coach Terri Sullivan said. “I know that our current team fed off of the great ‘feel’ we had in seeing our 2004 team back. This was the best reunion ever here in our softball family.”

In women’s track & field:

Ejesieme leads Illini.
Jesica Ejesieme had the best individual finish of any Illini on Saturday at the Drake Relays, placing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.90 seconds.

She also ran the first leg of the 400 shuttle hurdle relay, which featured Champaign Central product Samone Thompson, that placed second (54.95).

In women’s golf:

Illini set mark.
The Illini moved up a spot on the leaderboard Saturday after the second day of the Big Ten Championships at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind.

Illinois was in fourth place after carding a 296, the second-lowest score of the day and the lowest score Illinois has ever had in program history at the Big Ten Championships. Erin Ahern shot an even-par 72 to register the low score for Illinois. Ember Schuldt shot a 73 and entered the final round Sunday tied for fifth.

“We played solid, smart golf all day,” UI coach Renee Slone said. “There were a lot of positives.”

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