Illinois golf continues to assert itself not just as a northern golf power but as a national power. Now, Mike Small's squad has yet another opportunity to assert itself as the pre-eminent power in college golf.
For the fourth straight year and fifth time in six years, the Illini are one of eight to advance to NCAA Championship match play after finishing second after four rounds of stroke play at Eugene Country Club in Oregon.
Illinois, which entered the tournament ranked fourth, will play No. 7 seed South Carolina (ranked 19th entering the tournament) in the match play quarterfinals at 9 a.m. CT on Tuesday. The winner will advance to the semifinals Tuesday afternoon/evening and play the winner of No. 3 seed LSU (ranked 12th) or No. 6 seed Oregon (ranked 20th).
In the other matches, top seed Texas (ranked 2nd) will play No. 8 seed Oklahoma (ranked 18th) and USC (ranked 3rd) will play Vanderbilt (ranked 8th) in the 4-5 match. Television coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. CT on Golf Channel.
The Illini looked dominant during Monday's final round of NCAA stroke play -- rising from ninth to second after shooting the low score of the day -- thanks to the type of complete team closing effort that has become the identity of what may be Small's deepest and most talented team.
Senior Thomas Detry led the Illini with a 3-under 67 on Sunday. He finished tied for 10th individually for the tournament at 3-over.
The Illini's No. 1, Charlie Danielson, had a rough day around the turn -- shooting five-over during a four-hole stretch -- but he bounced back with a birdie and eagle on 12 and 13, respectively, to get back on track. He finished the day with a 1-over 71. He finished eighth individually for the tournament at 2-over.
Illini sophomores Dylan Meyer (+5, T-17th) and Nick Hardy (+7, T-26th) -- playing in their second NCAA Championships -- each shot 1-under (69) on Monday.
Freshman Edoardo Lipparelli had his best round of the tournament (+2) but his score didn't count since it was the lowest of five scores.
The Illini now set their sights on the one trophy it lacks: the national championship.
In previous match play performances, Illinois finished tied for 5th in 2011, runner up in 2013, tied for fifth in 2014 and tied for third in 2015.
Unlike stroke play -- which counts total strokes of players and teams -- match play pits each teams' five players against each other with each player earning a point for each hole he wins. The team with the majority of player wins after 18 holes advances to the next round.