WMU Men's Tennis Ends Season at NCAA Tournament
story courtesy of WMU athletic media relations
URBANA, Ill. - The nationally-ranked Western Michigan men's tennis team didn't go quietly against No. 10 Illinois on its home court in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon in Urbana, Ill. The No. 54 Broncos won three sets in singles, but the Fighting Illini advanced to the second round with a 4-0 win at the Atkins Tennis Center.
The Broncos were playing in their second straight NCAA Tournament and the fifth in program history and finish the season with a 18-8 overall record, which included the 19th regular season Mid-American Conference championship in school history, tying a MAC record.
"We played in a really good NCAA Tournament environment today that was a special experience for our players," WMU head coach Dave Morin said. "We're disappointed with the loss obvisouly, but we had some guys play some really good tennis and overall we had a fantastic season in bringing home MAC regular season and tournament titles and we were ranked as high as No. 39 in the country."
Illinois (19-8) took the early lead with a pair of 8-3 wins at No. 1 doubles from No. 5 Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe and No. 3 doubles from GD Jones and Marc Spicijaric. WMU's Tim Bradshaw and Kevin Hayward had their match at No. 2 doubles abandoned with the score knotted at 6-all.
In singles, Brady Crosby took the first set from No. 22 Rowe, 6-4, but the Fighting Illini took the remaining five first sets.
Illinois continued to put pressure on the Broncos by winning each of the first two singles matches to finish to pull ahead 3-0. Spicijaric defeated Hayward 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 and Ruben Gonzales defeated Alex Birchmeier 6-2, 6-2 at No. 4.
In the meantime, WMU was fighting back with Bradshaw taking the second set from No. 5 Anderson at one singles, 6-2, and Bryan Norville taking the second set, 7-6, from Brandon Davis at six singles.
John Pelton, the Broncos' MAC Tournament hero with the comeback-clinching victory against Ball State, was in another postseason battle against Jones at No. 5 singles, but wasn't able to replicate his MAC tourney result. Jones prevailed 7-6, 7-5 in a back-and-forth match to advance Illinois to the second round.
"All of Illinois' players have some weapons that can really put you on the defensive, but I thought we adjusted and competed really hard and just came up a little short," Morin said. "We put ourselves in position to win some individual matches and if we could have kept the match going I think things could have been interesting at the end."
In the abandoned matches, Bradshaw was trailing in the third set to Anderson (6-2, 2-6, 4-1) at No. 1, Crosby was trying to close out Rowe (6-4, 5-5) at No. 2 and Norville was about to start his third set against Davis (2-6, 7-6) at No. 6.
"Our seniors (Bradshaw and Crosby) really stepped up big for us today," Morin said. "We talked about competing and not getting discouraged when things go wrong and Tim (Bradshaw) did a great job of that against the No. 5 player in the country after losing the first set.
"Brady (Crosby) did a great job also. He broke a bone in his (right) wrist in late April, but never complained and played some great tennis down the stretch to help us win the MAC and he was very close to beating the No. 22 player in the country today. When you have two guys who can hang with two of the best players in the entire country, I think that sets the tone for our entire team," Morin said.
Illinois advances to the second round on Saturday to take on No. 24 Michigan with a berth in the round of 16 and a trip to Athens, Ga., on the line.
Western Michigan will also be represented in Athens, Ga., as Bradshaw and Crosby will compete in the NCAA National Doubles Championship when the first round commences on May 24.
Tennis Match Results
Western Michigan vs Illinois
May 11, 2007 at Urbana, Ill.
#10 Illinois 4, #54 Western Michigan 0
1. #5 Kevin Anderson (ILL) vs. Tim Bradshaw (WMU) 6-3, 2-6, 4-1, unfinished
2. #22 Ryan Rowe (ILL) vs. Brady Crosby (WMU) 4-6, 5-5, unfinished
3. Marc Spicijaric (ILL) def. Kevin Hayward (WMU) 6-3, 6-1
4. Ruben Gonzales (ILL) def. Alex Birchmeier (WMU) 6-2, 6-2
5. GD Jones (ILL) def. John Pelton (WMU) 7-6 (7-2), 7-5
6. Brandon Davis (ILL) vs. Bryan Norville (WMU) 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), unfinished
1. #8 Kevin Anderson/Ryan Rowe (ILL) def. #55 Alex Birchmeier/Bryan Norville (WMU) 8-3
2. Brandon Davis/Ruben Gonzales (ILL) vs. Tim Bradshaw/Kevin Hayward (WMU) 6-6, unfinished
3. GD Jones/Marc Spicijaric (ILL) def. John Pelton/Brady Crosby (WMU) 8-3
Western Michigan 18-8; National ranking #54
Illinois 19-8; National ranking #10
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (3,4,5)
NCAA Tournament First Round