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    NU Edged by Illinois 4-2 in Thrilling Big Ten Quarterfinal

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Sidarth Balaji was a straight-set winner for Northwestern at No. 3 singles.
    Sidarth Balaji was a straight-set winner for Northwestern at No. 3 singles.

    April 26, 2013


    Site: Columbus, Ohio (Varsity Tennis Courts)
    Score: Illinois 4, Northwestern 2
    Records: NU (21-9), Illinois (17-9)
    Next NU Event: TBD -- NCAA tournament field announced April 30

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fifth-seeded Northwestern's late rally against fourth-seeded Illinois came up just short as the Wildcats fell 4-2 in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 Big Ten Men's Tennis Tournament Friday afternoon.

    The Wildcats fell behind early as Illinois got wins at Nos. 1 and 2 to take the doubles point. A pair of 8-4 wins by 13th-ranked Ross Guigmon and Tim Kopinski as well as 85th-ranked Jared Hiltzik and Alex Jesse but the Illini in good shape to begin the match.

    However, NU positioned itself for a comeback with a solid start to singles play. Northwestern posted first-set wins at Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 as it attempted to battle back.

    Sidarth Balaji evened the match 1-1 as he made quick work of Bruno Abdelnour at No. 3, winning 6-2, 6-2. Illinois would get a straight-set win of its own at No. 1, though, as 31st-ranked Jared Hiltzik defeated fellow first-team All-Big Ten selection Spencer Wolf 6-2, 6-3.

    At No. 6, Farris Gosea took the first set from Chris Jackman 7-5, but the Wildcat senior held a 5-3 lead in the second and was on the verge of forcing a decisive third set. Unfortunately for NU, Gosea was able to battle back and win the set in a tiebreaker, bringing the Illini within one victory of the match win.

    Of the three remaining matches on the courts, Northwestern had won the first set in three of the matchups, but all second sets went the way of Illinois which set up a trio of dramatic third sets and a race to the finish.

    Needing to win all three third sets to rally back for the victory, the Wildcats took the first step when Alex Pasareanu dominated the final stanza to take a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 win from Guigmon, pulling NU within 3-2.



    The match would ultimately be decided by a pair of tight matches at Nos. 2 and 4. At No. 2, 87th-ranked Raleigh Smith was knotted up with Tom Kopinski 6-4, 3-6, 4-4, but Kopinski was able to win the next two games to earn the comeback win and give Illinois the match. Mihir Kumar held a narrow 6-3, 5-7, 3-2 lead over Stephen Hoh at No. 4 when the match was decided.

    Northwestern will learn its NCAA tournament destination when the field is announced Tuesday, April 30.

    #4 Illinois 4, #5 Northwestern 2

    1. #31 Jared Hiltzik (ILL) def. Spencer Wolf (NU) 6-2, 6-3
    2. Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. #87 Raleigh Smith (NU) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
    3. Sidarth Balaji (NU) def. Bruno Abdelnour (ILL) 6-2, 6-2
    4. Stephen Hoh (ILL) vs. Mihir Kumar (NU) 3-6, 7-5, 2-3, unfinished
    5. Alex Pasareanu (NU) def. Ross Guigmon (ILL) 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1
    6. Farris Gosea (ILL) def. Chris Jackman (NU) 7-5, 7-6
    Order of finish: 3, 1, 6, 5, 2*

    1. #13 Ross Guigmon/Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. Spencer Wolf/Alex Pasareanu (NU) 8-4
    2. #85 Jared Hiltzik/Alex Jesse (ILL) def. Mihir Kumar/Raleigh Smith (NU) 8-4
    3. Bruno Abdelnour/Farris Gosea (ILL) vs. Sidarth Balaji/Chris Jackman (NU) 5-4, unfinished
    Order of finish: 1, 2*


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