Baylor tennis bounces Illinois
ATHENS, Ga. — There was no dramatic comeback this time. The Baylor Bears made sure of that.
The Illinois men’s tennis team’s run in the NCAA tournament ended Friday with a 4-0 loss to Baylor in the round of 16.
“All of our warts showed up (Friday),” Illinois coach Brad Dancer said.
To even get to the University of Georgia campus, the Illini needed to pull off a stunning comeback in the second round against Memphis. But that match was at home, the crowd helping the Illini rally.
The Bears were having none of it Friday. It was the second victory of the season by Baylor against Illinois.
The Illini had a chance to get off to a good start in doubles. They went up early in two of the matches.
“Kind of the same old story it’s been all year long. We change what we’re doing when we get up in the doubles,” Dancer said. “We’ve got opportunities to capitalize on things and don’t capitalize on them. That was really unfortunate.”
Why did it happen?
“That’s a great question,” Dancer said. “It’s not like it’s happened only against better teams. We show that even against some of the less strong teams.”
That would not include the Bears.
“Baylor’s a very good team,” Dancer said. “I give them a lot of credit for putting enough stress on us.”
Baylor entered the match with a higher ranking and a better record. Baylor won the Big 12 title, while Illinois finished second to Ohio State in the Big Ten.
In singles, Baylor’s third-ranked Julian Lenz defeated Illinois’ Jared Hiltzik 6-2, 6-2.
“He didn’t give Jared any kind of room to breathe, and Jared did not play his best match at all,” Dancer said. “He played very tentative and was very cautious and was not moving well.”
Tim Kopinski started off strong against Diego Galeano before losing 6-4, 6-3.
“(Kopinski) looked like a pro coming out of the gate, but he just didn’t stay with his play,” Dancer said. “He’s not going for the jugular and really trying to knock the guy out.”
Lesson learned, Dancer hopes.
“We just didn’t have a good enough standard,” Dancer said. “Overall for us as a team, down the last few months of the season we were not playing at the level we were earlier in the season. Ultimately, you have to look at that and say that’s a coaching issue. The guys weren’t playing as free. They weren’t playing as loose.”
After the near loss against Memphis, Dancer thought his team would be more demonstrative against Baylor. It didn’t happen.
“For us to have the kind of success we want to have, our fans want to see us have, we’ve got to change our culture.” Dancer said. “We’re on a really good path. We need to get over that final hump.”
Illinois isn’t done at the NCAA tournament. The doubles team of Kopinski and Ross Guignon has qualified. So have Hiltzik and Farris Gosea in singles.
“We’ve got five days to prepare for individuals,” Dancer said. “Kopinski and Guignon, after a rough stretch, I think they’re doing a lot better now. I think they’ve got a chance to have a great run in the doubles.”
They wanted to play longer in the team competition.
“It’s a big disappointment,” Dancer said. “The last two months of the season, we never put a match together where we felt like we could beat anybody. That’s a little frustrating.”