Illinois Advances to Ninth Straight Championship Final
April 28, 2007
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Third-seeded Illinois returns to the Big Ten Championship final for the ninth consecutive year after taking out second-seeded Michigan, 4-1, in Saturday's semifinal at Purdue's Schwartz Tennis Center.
The Illini fans and team alumni, including All-American Ryler DeHeart, gathered to celebrate as Illinois wreaked revenge from the team's regular season loss to the Maize and Blue.
In doubles, the Illini's reigning NCAA Championship tandem of Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe showed its top form against Michigan's eighth-ranked pair of Brian Hung and Matko Maravic, coming out with an 8-2 win. Ruben Gonzeles and Brandon Davis clinched the first team point for Illinois with an 8-3 decision over Ryan Heller and Andrew Mazlin in the No. 3 match.
But after the Wolverines had faced the same deficit against the Illini earlier this year when Michigan rallied to claim its first win over the Blue and Orange in 10 years, the match was far from over.
Ryan Heller leveled the match with a strong 6-3, 6-1 victory over Illinois' Gonzales, but the senior would be the only Wolverine to get on the board.
In the No. 6 match, Davis reclaimed the team advantage for Illinois with a straight-set win over Steve Peretz. GD Jones quickly followed with hard-fought three-set defeat of Mike Srocynski in the fifth contest to bring the Illini lead to 3-1.
The match came down to one of the most exciting contests of the day between the Illini's No. 23 Rowe and Michigan's No. 49 Maravic in No. 2 singles. After the Illini big man handily won the first set, 6-1, Maravic reversed his fate in a thrilling second set. With no breaks of serve, the match went into a tie breaker and Rowe quickly took control and served for the match. But Maravic was not to be out-done, saving two match points before extorting an 8-6 advantage to even the match at a set a piece.
Rowe caught the applause as Jones finished out his match, and turned up another gear in the third set. The Illini junior drilled his way to a 6-2 win in the third, sealing the team victory for Illinois (18-7).
The Illini will reprise last year's championship rendezvous with top-seeded Ohio State on Sunday at noon ET at the Schwartz Tennis Center.