April 23, 2017
URBANA, Ill. – Ohio State and Illinois have been at the top of the Big Ten for more than the last decade and Sunday’s regular season finale was befitting of two of the best teams in the conference. The Buckeyes rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat host Illinois 4-3 in dramatic fashion.
Ohio State had already clinched the outright title but the win Sunday completed a perfect 11-0 Big Ten season for the Buckeyes. Prior to Ty Tucker taking over as head coach at the start of the 2000 season, the Buckeyes had back-to-back seasons of 0-10 in conference play. This year’s undefeated run marks Ohio State’s 11th undefeated Big Ten season under Tucker in the last 12 years.
Sunday’s match turned out to be a battle. The Buckeyes would drop the doubles point for the first time since Feb. 26 at Florida. That was a span of 14 matches. The Illini took 6-4 victories on both courts two and three for the point. On court one, Martin Joyce and Hugo Di Feo traded breaks with Alex Jesse and Aleks Kovacevic midway through the set and the Buckeye duo had a match point leading 5-4 when the match was halted.
The Illini kept the pressure on in singles as they raced to a 3-0 lead. Mikael Torpegaard dropped his first singles match in 2017 as No. 5 Aleks Vukic won the battle of the conferences’ top two players 6-1, 6-3. Kovacevic followed shortly with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Martin Joyce on court four.
Senior Herkko Pollanen got the Buckeyes on the board with his eighth-straight victory, beating Noe Khlif 6-1, 6-3 on court six.
In the match on court three, Di Feo fell behind an early break in the first set but he then won four-straight games to take the set 6-4. The Canadian then rolled to a 6-1 win in the second set to pull the Buckeyes within one at 3-2.
Redshirt-freshman Kyle Seelig evened the match at 3-3 with his 25th singles win of the season. He beat Zeke Clark 6-4, 6-4 on court five.
That left the match to be decided by Buckeye freshman JJ Wolf and Illini junior Aron Hiltzik. Wolf got out to a 4-2 lead in the first set but Hiltzik would battle back and take the set with a 7-4 win in a tiebreaker. Undeterred, Wolf battled in the second and grabbed a late break before holding for a 6-4 win. That gave him momentum heading into the third and he would win the first two games of the set.
Leading 3-2, Wolf was broken but then broke right back to take a 4-3 lead. Hiltzik broke again to even the score at 4-4 and would hold for a 5-4 edge. Wolf held serve and would grab yet another break to go up 6-5 and had a chance to serve for the match. The Illini junior rallied behind the crowd and would break to force a deciding tiebreaker.
Wolf took control early in the breaker and would dominate en route to a 7-1 victory. The win was Wolf 14th of the season and it was his highest ranked win as well. Wolf won a pair of matches over the weekend against ranked opponents.
Ohio State will be the No. 1 seed in next weekend’s Big Ten Tournament hosted by Purdue. The Buckeyes will open on Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET against the winner of the 8/9 matchup.
#2 Ohio State 4, #25 Illinois 3
1. #5 Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. #1 Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) 6-1, 6-3
2. #75 JJ Wolf (OSU) def. #32 Aron Hiltzik (ILL) 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-1)
3. #8 Hugo Di Feo (OSU) def. Gui Gomes (ILL) 6-4, 6-1
4. Aleks Kovacevic (ILL) def. Martin Joyce (OSU) 6-3, 6-4
5. Kyle Seelig (OSU) def. Zeke Clark (ILL) 6-4, 6-4
6. #120 Herkko Pollanen (OSU) def. Noe Khlif (ILL) 6-1, 6-3
1. Alex Jesse/Aleks Kovacevic (ILL) vs. #27 Martin Joyce/Hugo Di Feo (OSU) 4-5, unfinished
2. Vuk Budic/Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. #13 Mikael Torpegaard/Herkko Pollanen (OSU) 6-4
3. Aron Hiltzik/Gui Gomes (ILL) def. JJ Wolf/Hunter Tubert (OSU) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (1,4,6,3,5,2)