Travis Bell/Big East
A week after winning the school’s first Big East men’s tennis title, DePaul now knows its opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Demons will travel to Champaign to face No. 16 Illinois on Friday, with the winner facing either Notre Dame or Western Michigan a day later.
DePaul (15-6) will be making its first NCAA Tournament appearance after securing a berth by winning the Big East championship April 26. Illinois, on the other hand, has not missed the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
The Fighting Illini are 21-2 this season and have won their last 17 matches. Illinois managed to win its first conference championship in six years on Sunday, defeating Ohio State 4-3.
DePaul has come close in the past to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, but fell short in the Big East championship games three previous times. Last week, however, the Blue Demons were able to take down St. John’s 4-3 in the title match.
It was a back-and-forth match between the two Big East rivals, with DePaul junior Luke Wassenaar coming back in the third set to secure the final point for his team.
“I felt the pressure, but I think the reason why it was so comfortable is that I stuck to my basics, to my game plan, to something we have been talking about a lot, it’s just competing,” Wassenaar told The DePaulia. “I wasn’t really thinking about the result and winning, I was just thinking about me competing and that is kind of what kept me calm during those times.”
DePaul head coach Matt Brothers has been with the program since 2007, but this will also be his first chance to coach in the NCAA Tournament. His team is currently on a six-game winning streak.
“Honestly, when we get back to practice, I’m going to remind them of things that we have discussed in the past that winning this tournament was not the end-all goal for us,” Brothers said. “These guys recognized a long time ago that we were fully capable of this and more. Our next goal now is to win the next round of the NCAAs, whoever that’s against.”