IOWA CITY, Iowa — The wins just keep on coming for the Illinois men’s tennis team.
On Friday, the 14th-ranked Illini extended their winning streak to 11 consecutive matches — the third-longest conference streak in program history — by beating Iowa 5-2 in Iowa City. The victory clinched a share of the Big Ten west division title for Brad Dancer’s Illinois team.
For the 2021 season, the Big Ten standings were divided into two divisions, with the east consisting of Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. The Illini’s other competitors in the west division included Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
After claiming the doubles point against the Hawkeyes, the Illini (15-2, 12-1 Big Ten) won four of the six singles matches, with victories from Hunter Heck (6-0, 6-3), Zeke Clark (6-0, 6-3), Noé Khlif (6-3, 7-6 (4)) and Lucas Horve (4-6, 7-6 (1), 10-1).
Sickels, Illini shut down Huskers. Sydney Sickels picked up right where she left off last weekend inside the circle.
Named the Big Ten pitcher of the week on Tuesday after 14 shutout innings against Wisconsin last weekend, the Illinois right-hander continued that dominance on Friday in a 4-0 victory by the Illini at Nebraska (11-10).
Sickels gave up only four hits in another complete-game shutout. The Illini junior struck out seven and did not allow a walk. Bella Loya, Maddison Demers and Kelly Ryono each had an RBI double, accounting for four of the six hits for Illinois (15-6).
Hoosiers walk off to beat Illini. Collin Hopkins’ two-run, walk-off home run sent Indiana to a 6-4 victory against Illinois on Friday night in Bloomington, Ind.
The Illini (8-11) sputtered offensive in key situations, leaving 12 runners stranded, in the loss to the Hoosiers (12-7). Jackson Raper led Illinois with four hits and two RBI in five at-bats.
In women’s basketball
Merritt leaving Illini. Scott Merritt’s tenure as an assistant coach on Nancy Fahey’s Illinois staff was short lived.
It lasted about a year.
Merritt left Fahey’s Illini program after one season, bolting for Big Ten competitor Wisconsin. Merritt — a former men’s basketball standout at Marquette, where he also was an assistant coach on the Golden Eagles women’s basketball team for six seasons — has joined first-year coach Marisa Moseley’s Badgers staff as an associate head coach, the school announced on Friday.
Merritt’s move to Madison means more upheaval for Fahey’s Illinois program. A season ago, Fahey replaced longtime Illini assistant LaKale Malone with Merritt and also brought in another former Marquette assistant coach in Vernette Skeete.
Those changes, combined with six newcomers to the roster before the 2020-21 season began, did nothing to turn around Illinois’ fortunes, with the Illini finishing this past season with a 5-18 overall record and 2-16 mark in the Big Ten.
Aside from looking for a new assistant coach, Fahey also has to deal with more roster turnover, as J-Naya Ephraim, Aaliyah McQueen, Kennedi Myles and Jeanae Terry all decided to transfer after this past season.
Illinois currently has at least 11 scholarship commitments for the 2021-22 season, including six returning players, three incoming freshmen (guard Adalia McKenzie, guard Jayla Oden and forward Keanna Rembert) and two transfers (guard Sara Anastasieska from Duke and forward Kendall Bostic from Michigan State).
That puts the Illini four below the 15-player scholarship cap, although forward Lyric Robins is listed on the 2021-22 roster and could return for a fifth season at Illinois with players allowed an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In women’s tennis
Spartans edge Illini. Illinois dropped a 4-3 decision against Michigan State on Friday in the Illini’s first outdoor match of the season at Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana.
Kate Duong (6-1, 6-1), Ashley Yeah (6-2, 7-6 (7-4)) and Josie Frazier (6-4, 6-3) accounted for the Illini’s wins. The Spartans (5-10), however, also took three singles matches and claimed the doubles point to beat Illinois (6-8).
In track and field
Plater sets record. Manning Plater made some history on Friday.
The Illinois graduate student broke a school record in the men’s hammer throw with a toss of 229 feet to win the event title at the Big Ten Invitational No. 2 in Bloomington, Ind. That mark ranks fifth nationally so far this NCAA outdoor season.
Friday also included several other first-place finishes for the Illini, with Jason Shannon (100 meter; 10.72 seconds) and Jessica Franklin (400-meter hurdles; 59.35 seconds) both winning track events. After an hour-long weather delay, Oakwood graduate Jon Davis won the men's 1500-meter race with a personal-best clocking of 3 minutes, 41.01 seconds.
In field events, Illinois registered wins from Connor Artman in the long jump (22 feet, 11 inches) and swept both the men’s and women’s javelin, getting wins from Shrey Chowdhary (56.94 meters) and Franklin (35.50 meters).