DeHeart Clinches Semifinal for No. 2 Illinois
April 28, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS - Led by two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year, Ryler DeHeart, the defending champion Illinois Fighting Illini opened the 2006 Big Ten Championship in a familiar fashion. The winners of four straight crowns at the postseason event, the No. 6 Illini cruised to a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over seventh-seeded Northwestern on Friday. With the win, Illinois advances to Saturday's semifinal round for the 11th straight year.
Illinois' all-time winningest singles player, DeHeart clinched the match with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over No. 66 Christian Tempke at No. 1 doubles. The ninth-ranked player in the country, he improved to 21-3 overall and 9-0 versus conference opponents.
The Illini doubles attack propeled the team to an early 1-0 lead. DeHeart teamed with Pramod Dabir to take out Northwestern's Tempke and Willy Lock 8-2 at No. 2 doubles, followed by another 8-2 win by Ruben Gonzales and G.D. Jones at No. 2 doubles.
Freshman Marc Spicijaric kicked off the singles success for Illinois. The rookie improved to 17-2 with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over the Wildcats' Adam Schaechterle. No. 23 Kevin Anderson and No. 87 Jones counted straight-set triumphs to put the Illini up 3-0 before DeHeart closed out the match.
The Illini (21-5 overall, 10-1 Big Ten) continue their hunt for a fifth consecutive title Saturday at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Minnesota-Penn State match.
Illinois (2) def. Northwestern (7), 5-0