Illinois begins tough home slate

Illinois begins tough home slate

CHAMPAIGN — Brad Dancer puts together the Illinois men's tennis schedule. So the 13th-year Illinois coach has no one to blame but himself for his 10th-ranked Illini (3-1) hosting No. 23 California (3-1) at 6 p.m. today and No. 5 Stanford (5-0) at 6 p.m. on Saturday to start the Illini's home schedule.

"We tell the prospects when we recruit them, 'Don't come here if you don't want to be in a battle every night,'" Dancer said. "It's scary as a coach, but the student-athletes love it."

Illinois has already faced three ranked teams this season, with the lone loss happening last Saturday at No. 3 North Carolina.

"We're doing some good things and some players that are making some great progress," Dancer said. "At the same time, I don't think we're anywhere near capacity as a coach. I feel we've got a lot left in the tank."

Two seniors in Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik are the veterans whom Dancer relies on, but freshmen Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi have supplied steady results, too.

"Aleks and Aron have both had tremendous careers here, so it's nice to have those guys at the top," Dancer said. "But AB and Caleb have been super so far this year, and I think they're both capable of playing a lot better, too."

Vukic is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and already collected his first athlete of the week honor from the Big Ten this past week.

Having Vukic, a 2017 All-American who advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 NCAA tournament, primed and ready for what's to come the rest of the spring is key, along with maintaining his pro aspirations.

"These guys are incredibly invested in the team and the university at the time, but you have to help them see beyond that," Dancer said. "Aleks and I talk every single day about his schedule and what he needs to be doing for his future and where he's heading."

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Tennis