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    Wildcats Drop Quarterfinal Clash With Illinois, 4-0

    Sidarth Balaji and the Wildcats were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament Friday afternoon.

    Sidarth Balaji and the Wildcats were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament Friday afternoon.

    April 27, 2012


    Watch Match Highlights on Wildcats All Access!

    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Vandy Christie Tennis Center - South )
    Score: No. 3 Illinois 4, No. 6 Northwestern 0
    Records: NU (15-10, 7-4 Big Ten), UI (15-7, 8-3 Big Ten)
    Next NU Event: NCAA Tournament Selection Show - May 1 (4:30 p.m.)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- In a match that was much closer than the final score would indicate, the third-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini edged the hosts, the Wildcats of Northwestern in an intense quarterfinal match at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament at the Vandy Christtie Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill. Friday. Illinois escaped with a 4-0 victory over the sixth-seeded 'Cats.

    "We ran into a great team this afternoon in Illinois," said Northwestern head coach Arvid Swan. "I really like the energy we had early on and the fight we displayed throughout the match, but all credit goes to their team for what they accomplished today."

    The match began under sunny skies and cool temperatures at Vandy Christie and both teams were energized at the start. The Wildcats fired out of the gate with an abundance of zeal, fresh off Thursday's opening round win at the Big Ten Tournament against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

    All three doubles matches were tightly contested from the start. The Illini grabbed the first win of the afternoon at the No. 3 position where Stephen Hoh and Farris Gosea doubled up NU's Tobias Reitz and Sidarth Balaji, 8-4.

    The 'Cats kept fighting on courts one and two, however. Sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu split the first 10 games of their doubles dual with Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon of Illinois. The blue-and-orange-clad duo held serve and then broke the `Cats to grab a two-point lead. With Kopinski serving, he and his partner were able to blank the Wildcats to win the eighth game and seal the doubles point.

    Meanwhile on court, No. 1, Spencer Wolf and Josh Graves, the 76th-ranked doubles tandem in the country, went blow-for-blow with Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich of Illinois. The two teams split the first six games before the Illini, ranked No. 28 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, held serve to take a 4-3 lead. The match ended unfinished at that score because Illinois had clinched the team point.

    "We had some momentum early on all three courts in doubles, but they were able to flip it on us at two and three," said Swan. "Josh and Spencer were fighting hard at No. 1, but that match was such a dogfight that they simply ran out of time."

    The trend of balance continued on into singles play Friday. The Wildcats appeared to have an early edge as they led on five of six courts at one point early on. Chris Jackman, playing No. 6 singles for Northwestern, jumped up a set on his opponent, Gosea, and momentum appeared to be in the corner of the hosts.

    Illinois soon countered when Nevolo, the 8th ranked singles player in the country, and Kopinski won their opening sets against Northwestern's Graves and Balaji, respectively. "I thought we did a good job of putting the doubles point behind us," said Swan. "Our guys came out prepared, focused and ready to play in singles."

    Smith fell to Bruno Abdelnour in his premiere set, 6-3, and Wolf was outlasted in his first set by Kalmanovich, 7-5. Pasareanu won his opening set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (3), against Hoh, but across the landscape it appeared that Illinois was inching ever closer to a victory.

    Nevolo notched the second team point of the after by finishing off Graves, 6-1, 6-3. Less than a minute later, Kopinski followed suit by putting away Balaji by the exact same scores. Northwestern's four remaining singles players continued to claw at the Illini, but the nation's 24th-ranked team continuously answered.

    Abdelnour would soon seal the win by earning the fourth point when he beat Smith, 6-3, 6-3. The matches at Nos. 2 (Wolf), 5 (Pasareanu) and 6 (Jackman) all went unifinished.

    Northwestern will now wait until May 1, when they will learn whether or not they have been chosen for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The field will be announced on a selection show that can be seen on at 4:30 p.m.

    The 2012 Big Ten Tournament continues Saturday with a pair of quarterfinal matches. Top seed Ohio State will face No. 5 Indiana at 9:30 a.m. and No. 3 Illinois will take on either No. 2 Michigan or No. 7 Michigan State at 1:30 p.m. Those battles are slated to take place at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center, however in the event of inclement weather, the semifinals will take place indoors at the Combe Tennis Center.

    1. No. 28 Dennis Nevolo/Roy Kalmanovich (ILL) vs. No. 76 Josh Graves/Spencer Wolf (NU) - 4-3 (unfinished)
    2. Tim Kopinski/Ross Guignon (ILL) def. Alex Pasareanu/Raleigh Smith (NU) - 8-5
    3. Farris Gosea/Stephen Hoh (ILL) def. Sidarth Balaji/Tobias Reitz (NU) - 8-4
    Order of finish: 3, 2*

    1. No. 8 Dennis Nevolo (ILL) def. Josh Graves (NU) - 6-2, 6-2
    2. No. 41 Roy Kalmanovich (ILL) vs. No. 120 Spencer Wolf (NU) - 7-5, 4-1 (unfinished)
    3. Bruno Abdelnour (ILL) def. Raleigh Smith (NU) - 6-3, 6-3
    4. Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. Sidarth Balaji (NU) - 6-1, 6-3
    5. Alex Pasareanu (NU) vs. Stephen Hoh (ILL) - 7-6 (3), 0-3 (unfinished)
    6. Chris Jackman (NU) vs. Farris Gosea (ILL) - 6-2, 6-5 (unfinished)
    Order of finish: 1, 4, 3*


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