DePaul men’s tennis loses 4-1 to Illinois in first round of NCAA Tournament


Delle Perrone

DePaul senior Luke Wassenaar gets ready to hit the tennis ball during a match against Illinois on Friday. The Blue Demons lost 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The DePaul men’s tennis team lost to University of Illinois, 4-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. 

The Blue Demons were making their first ever appearance in the tournament, while the Illini have qualified for the tournament every year since 1996. Illinois’ experience in the tournament was on full display. 

DePaul got off to a good start by winning the doubles point. Junior Vito Tonejc and senior Luke Wassenaar secured the point for the Blue Demons, defeating Illinois’ Siphosothando Montsi and Noe Khlif. 

In order to win the only doubles point, one team has to win two of three doubles matches. DePaul’s Fran Tonejc and Tripp Tuff won the first doubles match, setting it up for Wassenaar and Vito Tonejc to win the second match. 

 The singles matches, however, went in Illinois’ favor. Out of the six singles matches, the Illini won four and the other two went unfinished. Hunter Heck won the first singles match for Illinois, which gave the hosts the momentum. 

Illinois took a 2-1 lead in the match after Montsi defeated Christopher Casati in two sets. Then, nationally ranked Zeke Clark put Illinois one point away from defeating DePaul after he also won his match against Tamas Zador. 

The final hope for the Blue Demons lay in Wassenaar’s hands, who won the crucial point in the Big East Tournament to send DePaul to the NCAA Tournament. But he came up short in his match against Khlif: 7-5, 6-2. With Illinois’ victory, it advanced to the second round to face. 

DePaul’s season concludes with a 15-7 record and the school’s first ever Big East championship. The Blue Demons defeated St. John’s, 4-3, in the title game on April 26. It was a back-and-forth match between the two conference rivals, with DePaul facing three match points before Wassenaar stormed back to win the third set. 

“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 last week. “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.”

For head coach Matt Brothers, this was also his first Big East championship after losing in the finals in 2008, 2014 and 2018. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Brothers said following the Blue Demons’ Big East championship victory. “Fourteen years and four finals, so well worth the wait. It’s been an amazing couple of days. I’m just really happy for this group — I mean, not that I obviously would have been happy for our other teams in the past. But these guys worked so hard and overcame so much adversity, and just high-character, high-quality guys that truly deserve this, and [I’m] happy that we just get two more weeks together on a tennis court.”