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Illini Defeat Harvard 4-3 in Round of 16

The Fighting Illini tennis team headed down to Tulsa, OK to continue the defense of their National Championship this weekend, but their match in the Round of 16 did not go as easy as the Illini expected. The Illini needed to grind out a 4-3 victory in a hard fought match. <br><br> <b>Live Updates:</b> Starting at 5:00, live updates from Tulsa will be available <a href="">here</a>!

The Fighting Illini tennis team headed down to Tulsa, OK to continue the defense of their National Championship this weekend, but their match in the Round of 16 did not go as easy as the Illini expected. The 16th ranked Harvard Crimson took the Illini to their wits edge, until senior Michael Calkins closed out the match for the Illini with a 6-2 victory over Cliff Nguyen in the third set of a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2 hard fought match.

Saturday's win improved Illinois' record in the Round of 16 to 5-0 since 1999 when the NCAA Tennis Tournament expanded to 64 teams. All-time in the NCAA Tournament, Illinois is 19-7, and is 9-0 in 2003 and 2004.

Illinois started out the match the same way it had started out 28 of 31 previous matches by capturing the doubles point led by the fifth ranked tandem of seniors Brian Wilson and Phil Stolt. After securing the 1-0 lead, Illinois' Stolt and GD Jones lost their singles matches, putting Harvard ahead 2-1. Ryler DeHeart then closed out his match to put the Illini back on pace for a victory, and tying up the match at 2-2. Brian Wilson, the No. 1 player in the country, closed out his match after holding off a rally by Harvard's David Lingman. Wilson's win gave the Illini a 3-2 lead.

When Chris Martin lost his three-set match, the match up between Harvard and Illinois was tied at 3-3. All eyes of the college tennis world were on the match between Michael Calkins and Cliff Nguyen. Calkins ended up closing the match, giving the Illini the win. As Craig Tiley predicted to his team the day before, Harvard was not an easy match up for the Fighting Illini netters.

"I said yesterday and I've said all along to our team that Harvard is a very good team and capable of beating us," said Tiley. "I think we got lucky today. We were up in the match, and I think our players put it on cruise control and started to lose their edge. That was disappointing."

Sunday at 5:00, the Illini will face Vanderbilt, the team Illinois defeated last year in Athens, GA to clinch the National Title in the Round of Eight.


Team Scoring

No. 1 Doubles SCORE
Jonathan Chu/Brandon Chiu (Harvard) 6
Brian Wilson/Phil Stolt (Illinois) 8
No. 2 Doubles SCORE
David Lingman/Mark Riddell (Harvard) DNF
Michael Calkins/Chris Martin (Illinois)
No. 3 Doubles SCORE
Martin Wetzel/Chris Chiou (Harvard) 6
Ryler DeHeart/GD Jones (Illinois) 8

Illinois wins doubles point

No. 1 Singles 1 2 3
David Lingman (Harvard) 3 6
Brian Wilson (Illinois) 6 7
No. 2 Singles 1 2 3
Jonathan Chu (Harvard) 7 6
Phil Stolt (Illinois) 6 3
No. 3 Singles 1 2 3
Mark Riddell (Harvard) 4 5
Ryler DeHeart (Illinois) 6 7
No. 4 Singles 1 2 3
Cliff Nguyen (Harvard) 3 7 2
Michael Calkins (Illinois) 6 6 6
No. 5 Singles 1 2 3
Martin Wetzel (Harvard) 2 6 6
Chris Martin (Illinois) 6 2 1
No. 6 Singles 1 2 3
Chris Chiou (Harvard) 7 6
GD Jones (Illinois) 5 2

Order of Finish: #6, #3, #2, #1, #5, #4


Illinois Coach Craig Tiley
"I said yesterday to our team, and I've said all along to our team that Harvard is very capable of beating us. I think we got lucky today. We were well up in the match and our players put it on cruise control and started to lose their edge. That was disappointing. Dave Fish always does a good job and always has good players who always do a good job. There wasn't a weak spot in the lineup. We had a weak spot today that was disappointing, and that was one of our seniors. We just had a team chat and it will be different tomorrow.

Illinois' Brian Wilson
On being up 3-1 and Harvard coming back... "Coach Fish always does a good job. His players are always ready to play. In doubles we dominated, playing well, especially me and Phil (Wilson). It was a wakeup call. We had a chat and it will be very different for tomorrow. Being up 3-1 to clinch it, which is something you want to do early in the tournament to save your body and save your legs, but today it didn't happen."

"Mike (Calkins) did a great job to clinch it. He played a wonderful third set. We're happy with that and look to move on tomorrow.

Illinois' Mike Calkins
On pressure... "I guess so. It isn't about putting pressure on me. It's staying with my game plan that has worked the whole match. I was serving 4 to 5 in the second, and had a game that didn't go my way. I lost the set in a breaker, but it's a matter of sticking to your strengths and hopefully it will pay off. Today it paid off, that is why we are a team. Brian (Wilson) played well today, and Ryler (DeHeart) played great being hurt. Doubles went well, and I was fortunate enough to win. Tomorrow is a new day, and I think we'll be ready.

Harvard's Dave Fish
"I told the team at the end of the game that we may have lost, but we came out winners. I think that talks about as far as our season is concerned. Our motto this year has been `beyond every mountain', so you climb one, and have to climb another one. You may get to a mountain that is way too big. By winning the regionals last week we probably climbed Kilimanjaro, and this week we had to climb Everest. A lot of great climbers haven't made it up to the top, but they've given it a hell of an effort. I'm very proud of the team. I'm delighted with the way they played, we never quit and they never quit. We have five seniors who have been contributing for four years. They are a very special part of Harvard tennis history now, and I couldn't be prouder. I'm going to miss them terribly.

Harvard's Chris Chiou
On the team's performance... "I felt today was kind of a culmination of four years of hard work with this guy (Coach Fish), everyone else and all the coaching staff at Harvard. They've been stressing to me the way to play today which was attacking and playing great. I felt I did that pretty well today. As far as my teammates, I love them to death. It's a good way to end the four years, I think. I think we climbed that mountain today.

On facing #1 Illinois... "We faced them last year indoors. I think that helped a lot today, that we were ready for what they were going to bring. They may have been a little stronger last year than this year, and we are stronger this year. We all felt confident coming into the match. We knew what to expect.

On the wind... "It helped in some matches, and it may have hurt in others. Some of our guys may not like to play in the wind as much, but I think overall it may have helped us. We are a strong group of guys mentally, and that's the toughest aspect of the wind is to be prepared mentally.


Illinois increased its nation-longest winning streak to 63 matches... on the year, Ilinois has now won the doubles point in 28 out of 31 matches... the Illini advances to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in the last six years... the only time Illinois has advanced past the quarterfinals was last year when the Illini won the title... the win was clinched by Michael Calkins, which is the third time he's clinched in a 4-3 victory this year.

Match time: 3:27

The story was generated through reports provided by the University of Illinois and the University of Tulsa.

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