No. 15 Illini Fall To No. 24 California In NCAA Second Round

Fighting Illini Tennis

URBANA, May 5, 2019 (Press Release)

No. 15 Illinois men’s tennis team put up a strong fight, but it wasn’t enough in a 4-1 loss to 24th-ranked California in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon.

“California was really good today… they earned it,” said head coach Brad Dancer. “We came out firing in doubles and put ourselves in position to win, but California stayed tough.” 

The Golden Bears took an early 1-0 lead over Illinois with victories on courts three and five to secure the doubles point. Although, the Orange and Blue did not go down without a fight. Illini pair Aleks Kovacevic and Alex Brown picked up their third ranked doubles win of the season after defeating No. 28 Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm, 6-3, on court one. The pair ends the season with an 8-3 overall record.

In the No. 3 position, sophomore Fletcher Scott and freshman Keenan Mayo faced a tiebreaker where California’s Jack Molloy and Ben Draper jumped ahead 7-3 and won the overall victory, 7-6(3). Coming down to court three, it was a back and forth battle, but California’s Paul Barretto and Can Kaya prevailed with a 7-6(4) victory over redshirt sophomore Gui Gomes and junior Vuk Budic.

“Losing that doubles point maybe was the first gut punch, but then California played super tough at the No. 2, 4, and 6 positions,” noted Dancer. “We were facing an uphill battle and couldn’t get the tide turned in those matches.”  

California took a 2-0 match lead after Bjorn Hoffman defeated Budic in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0. On court two, California continued the momentum after Molloy defeated No. 46 Brown, 6-3, 6-4. Kovacevic picked up the lone Illini point after Kikuchi medically retired on court one. In the end, California’s Ben Draper clinched the match for the Golden Bears after defeating Siphosothando Montsi, 6-4, 7-5, on court four.

“It is always tough to lose, but even tougher in front of our fans,” said Dancer. “I know our guys were disappointed they couldn’t get it done for them.”  

The Illini close the season with a 19-9 overall record after making its 24th-straight NCAA tournament appearance. Illinois is 32-5 when playing at home and 21-3 in the first round. They have not lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Without a senior class, Illinois returns its full roster.

“We are at an interesting place with our program,” noted Dancer.  “We have a year where we are hosting the NCAA regionals, so this team should be proud of those accomplishments, but at the same time, the expectations with Illinois Tennis are bigger than that. We all know what we signed up for. It will be about how to get this group of guys excelling at a higher level and also establishing a base for future Illini to keep growing.”  

With team play completed, two Illini look to continue their individual postseason runs. Following the NCAA Team Championship, No. 8 seed Kovacevic and Brown will compete in the NCAA Singles Championship on May 20-25 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.


#24 California 4, #15 Illinois 1 

Singles competition: Order of Finish (6,2,1,4)

1. #10 Aleks Kovacevic (UI) def. Yuta Kikuchi (CAL) 7-5, 5-2, retired
2. Jack Molloy (CAL) def. #46 Alex Brown (UI) 6-3, 6-4
3. Zeke Clark (UI) vs. Paul Barretto (CAL), 7-5, 0-4, unfinished
4. Ben Draper (CAL) def. Siphosothando Montsi (UI) 6-4, 7-5
5. Noe Khlif (UI) vs. Jacob Brumm (CAL), 2-6, 2-5, unfinished
6. Bjorn Hoffman (CAL) def. Vuk Budic (UI) 6-3, 6-0

Doubles competition: Order of finish (1,3,2)

1. #47 Aleks Kovacevic/Alex Brown (UI) def. #28 Yuta Kikuchi/Jacob Brumm (CAL) 6-3
2. Paul Barretto/Can Kaya (CAL) def. Vuk Budic/Gui Gomes (UI) 7-6(7-4)
3. Jack Molloy/Ben Draper (CAL) def. Keenan Mayo/Fletcher Scott (UI) 7-6(7-3)

Illinois 19-9; National ranking #15
California 16-12; National ranking #24
NCAA Second Round