April 4, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 49 Michigan State men's tennis team returns this weekend to host another pair of ranked conference opponents. The Spartans are set to host the 29th ranked Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, April 6 at 12 p.m. before facing No. 28 Illinois on Sunday, April 7 at 12 p.m. MSU enters the weekend with an 8-10 overall record in dual matches and a 2-3 conference mark. The Green and White split a pair of Big Ten road matches last weekend, falling at Indiana, 1-6 on Saturday before rebounding to record an impressive victory over 63th ranked Purdue, 6-1 on Sunday.
"We knew that when the schedule was set that this would be a very big weekend for us. To get to the NCAA tournament you need to beat ranked teams, and this is our opportunity to do that," said head coach Gene Orlando.
"We've been playing well and lost some really close matches in March but have also won some close ones. We have to keep believing that we can beat any team that we face, and this weekend will be no different."
CONGRATS COACH ORLANDO
The win against the Boilermakers was head coach Gene Orlando's 300th career victory. He has 269 wins in 22 seasons at the helm for the Spartans, and an additional 31 wins during his three-year stint at Bowling Green.
The Northwestern Wildcats enter the weekend with a 17-5 overall record and a 3-2 mark in conference action. NU has earned victories over No. 33 Nebraska (5-2), Iowa (7-0), and No. 70 Wisconsin (5-2) while falling to No. 17 Illinois (5-2) and No. 47 Minnesota (4-3).
Senior Spencer Wolf has seen the majority of time at the No. 1 singles spot, posting a 10-9 record. In matches against nationally ranked singles opponents, Wolf has a 3-4 mark. Junior Raleigh Smith has also spent time at No.1, but has been a dominant force for the Wildcats at the No. 2 position. Smith has a 16-4 overall singles record and has gone 11-1 in his last twelve contests, which included a 10-match win streak.
Smith has bounced back and forth in the No. 1 and 2 doubles slots as well, posting an 11-5 overall mark with senior Sidarth Balaji. Wolf has seen time at the 1, 2 and 3 doubles positions and has recorded a 7-9 mark, but is coming off three consecutive wins against conference opponents.
Northwestern will take on Michigan on Friday, April 7 at noon following their match with the Spartans.
A GLANCE AT ILLINOIS
The Fighting Illini begin the weekend at 11-7 and are 4-1 in Big Ten play, putting them second behind only 5-0 Ohio State in conference action. Illinois has endured one of the most brutal schedules in the country so far, facing 10 opponents currently ranked in the top 60 and 5 that sit in the top 10. Impressive non-conference wins for the Illini include 4-3 wins over No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Kentucky.
Freshman Jared Hiltzik has come on strong for the Fighting Illini in singles play, posting six wins at the No. 1 position and four at No. 2. He is currently ranked No. 42 in the ITA National singles rankings. In doubles play, sophomore Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon make up the 22nd ranked duo in the nation, and have posted an 8-2 record at the No. 1 and 2 positions.
The Fighting Illini will face Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor before traveling to East Lansing for the match against MSU.
LAST TIME OUT
Entering the heart of the conference schedule, the Spartans were able to take one of two matches last weekend when they traveled to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers and Boilermakers. After a disappointing 6-1 loss to Indiana on Saturday, the Spartans were able to regroup to put on an impressive showing against Purdue and defeat the Boilermakers, 6-1 for their second conference win of the season.
After earning the doubles point with wins at the No. 2 and 3 positions, the Spartans went on to capture five of the six singles points. Junior Drew Lied and senior Denis Bogatov earned straight set victories in the No. 2 and 3 slots, while freshman JP Mullane, sophomore Harry Jadun and junior Aaron Pfister all came out on top in three-set matches in the No. 4, 6, and 1 positions respectively.
MSU will hit the road next weekend for another pair of conference matches. The Spartans will travel to Iowa for a match with the Hawkeyes on Friday, April 12 at 12 p.m., before heading to Lincoln to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday, April 14 at 12 p.m.