CHAMPAIGN — Illinois likely has lost out on the chance to host first- and second-round NCAA tournament men’s tennis matches.
That doesn’t mean the Illini are done playing at home.
“The guys have said: ‘One way or another we have to get back to Atkins,’ ” UI coach Brad Dancer said. “I feel they’re capable of doing it.”
To reach the NCAA Championships that start May 16 at Atkins Tennis Center and the Khan Outdoor Complex, the Illini will have to win twice on the road. That’s an unusual request for one of the country’s most consistent programs.
Since 1999, early in the school’s current run of 17 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, Illinois has opened on the road once — in 2006 at Louisville, Ky., where it won twice to advance to the round of 16.
Dancer said the Illini would have to win this weekend’s Big Ten tournament at Ohio State to have a chance to host.
“Even then, it’d be a long shot,” Dancer said. “A lot would have to happen perfectly.”
Illinois (15-9) is seeded fourth and could face top-seeded and host Ohio State in Saturday’s semifinals. The Buckeyes beat the Illini 4-3 on April 12 in C-U.
Working in the UI’s favor is a late-season surge (three consecutive wins) and the memory of last year’s run to the Big Ten tournament title in Evanston, capped by a wild upset of Ohio State.
“The freshmen saw that match,” Dancer said. “They’ve seen the excitement firsthand. It’s something we’ll touch on.”