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  The Digital Collegian - Published independently by students at Penn State
[ Friday, April 9, 1999 ]

Netmen to battle top teams

Collegian Staff Writer

One wonders if the Penn State men's tennis team is familiar with the biblical story of David and Goliath, because it will face more than one Goliath this weekend.

The No. 70 Nittany Lions (10-7, 1-4 Big Ten) will host the second-ranked team in the nation, conference foe Illinois, at 6:30 p.m. today. At 11 a.m. Sunday, the Lions will host No. 34 Northwestern. Both matches will be at Sarni Tennis Center, weather permitting. In the event of rain, the matches will be moved indoors to the Penn State Tennis Center.

PHOTO: Jim Rajotte
A member of the Penn State mens tennis team returns the ball Saturday during a match against Duquesne.

"We're going to be a big, big underdog," Penn State coach Jan Bortner said. "Both teams will be heavy favorites."

The Lions will enter the weekend with momentum from Wednesday's shutout victory over Duquesne. Penn State swept all six singles matches and all three doubles matches to win 7-0.

The Lions also enter the weekend with an uncertainty as to who will be their No. 1 singles player. Senior Mike Griesser has held the spot for over a year, going 31-27 in that time, but junior Marc Dorfman has played the last three matches at the top singles spot.

Bortner said he is unsure of who will play in the No. 1 spot this weekend.

And neither Dorfman nor Griesser seems to know either.

"I have no clue, truthfully," Griesser said.

Illinois (16-2, 4-0) has won 23 straight matches in the Big Ten and three of its singles players are ranked in the top 100. Ranked at No. 9 in the country, Oliver Freelove poses a threat to whoever plays at No. 1 singles for the Lions. At No. 2 singles, Cary Franklin has a No. 29 ranking, while Gavin Sontag is the 77th-ranked player in the nation. Sontag moved up five spots in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's April 6 rankings, despite having missed the last nine matches with a fractured hip.

"Illinois's a great team," Dorfman said. "We have a great opportunity if all the guys give 100 percent."

In doubles, the Fighting Illini boast the third-ranked doubles team in the country with Freelove and Franklin. The duo was named the ITA National Doubles Team for March.

"At the moment, (Freelove and Franklin) are playing the best tennis in the country," Illinois coach Craig Tiley said in an Illinois press release. "They are playing consistently solid tennis and enjoy playing together. But the goal is to be consistent throughout the rest of the season and through the NCAA Championships."

While not as terrifying as Illinois, Northwestern (7-7, 2-2) isn't a team to be taken lightly. The Wildcats are led by senior captain Doug Bohaboy at No. 1 singles. The 69th-ranked singles player upset SMU's 12th-ranked Ignacio Hirigoyen on March 19. He barely lost to Illinois' Freelove (3-6, 7-5, 6-1) on March 6, and top-ranked James Blake of Harvard (6-7, 7-6, 6-2) on March 20. Bohaboy is also ranked along with Martin Bengtsson as the No. 40 doubles team.

While the Lions have struggled this year in the conference, one constant has been their doubles team of Griesser and sophomore Marc McCallister. The two have posted a 16-2 record this season, including eight-straight victories and a 5-0 record in the Big Ten.

"Illinois isn't a finesse team in doubles," Bortner said. "They play with power, which is our style. We like to play power doubles.

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Updated: 1999-4-8  22:23:20   -4
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