No. 18 Wildcats Sweep Matches in Midweek Doubleheader

LEXINGTON, Ky. –Despite an undermanned corps, the No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats pulled off the upset, 4-3, against No. 10 Illinois before rolling past Morehead State, 4-0, at the Hilary J Boone Tennis Center Tuesday afternoon.

“I think today we showed that we can play against the best one-two punch in the country,” fifth-year head coach Cedric Kauffman said. “Today we really showed our depth without a couple guys in the lineup.

“I thought our guys stepped up big especially on the back end after losing the doubles point. I thought that our energy during doubles was a lot better than normal, especially on the third court – that’s what we’re looking for on all courts and what they did was great.”

Kentucky now sits at 13-4 on the season with a 3-2 mark in Southeastern Conference play. Illinois rests at 8-7 with an 0-1 mark in Big Ten matches, while Morehead State moves to 3-7 on the season while maintaining its 2-1 record in Ohio Valley Conference matches. 

Kentucky will play host to South Carolina at 3 p.m. at the Boone Center. Admission is free.

MATCH ONE: No. 18 Kentucky 4, No. 10 Illinois 3  

Kentucky, missing mainstays junior Nils Ellefsen and freshman Enzo Wallart with minor injuries, looked to the remaining staff for assistance against the 10th-ranked Illini. The Wildcats proved the team’s depth, with four members of the team playing on higher courts than usual and three securing critical wins to launch Kentucky to a 4-3 upset against the visitors from Champaign-Urbana. 

After dropping the doubles point, the Wildcats fired back with a quick point, as senior Kevin Lai, filling in at the No. 6 position, stormed past Illinois’ Brian Page, 6-2, 6-3 for the match’s lone straight set victory.

The Cats remained gritty throughout, with the match being determined over roughly 20 minutes with finishes coming quickly after one another. Kentucky took a 2-1 lead, as sophomore Jake Stefanik took down Asher Hirsch, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 on the fifth court. 

Sophomore William Bushamuka secured his seventh ranked win of the season and the largest win of his career to date, taking down No. 10 Jared Hiltzik, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2-0) on the top court for a 3-1 Wildcats lead. 

Previously, Bushamuka’s highest ranked win was against then-No. 11 Ryan Shane, the reigning NCAA singles champion from University of Virginia, who the sophomore defeated in January.

Freshman Ryotaro Matsumura and sophomore Trey Yates both faced setbacks to the fourth and 59th-ranked players in the country, respectively, to tie the match at 3-3.

The match came down to the fourth court, where freshman Austin Hussey was tied with the Illini’s Julian Childers in the third set, 5-5. Hussey remained cool and collected, with the Wildcat contingent dogpiling their teammate as he took the set and match, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

“I think when Austin came down and watched matches as a senior in high school, he had that kind of idea in his head, and his performance today was enormous,” Kauffmann said on the freshman’s outing. “For him to come down and clinch the match like that – wow. I know he’s talked about it, but for him to do it is different. I’m really proud of how he did today.”

Singles Competition
1. #27 William Bushamuka (UK) def. #10 Jared Hiltzik (ILL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2-0)
2. #4 Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. Ryotaro Matsumura (UK) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. #59 Aron Hiltzik (ILL) def. Trey Yates (UK) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
4. Austin Hussey (UK) def. Julian Childers (ILL) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5
5. Jake Stefanik (UK) def. Asher Hirsch (ILL) 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
6. Kevin Lai (UK) def. Brian Page (ILL) 6-2, 6-3

Doubles Competition
1. Aron Hiltzik/Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. William Bushamuka/Gus Benson (UK) 6-3
2. Jared Hiltzik/Pengxuan Jiang (ILL) def. Kevin Lai/Trey Yates (UK) 6-4
3. Austin Hussey/Ryotaro Matsumura (UK) def. Alex Jeese/Julian Childers (ILL) 6-4

Match Notes:
Illinois 8-7 (0-1); National ranking #10
Kentucky 12-4 (3-2); National ranking #18
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (6,5,1,3,2,4)

MATCH TWO: No. 18 Kentucky 4, Morehead State 0  

Kentucky cruised to a 4-0 win in the second match of the double-header. The teams agreed to swap the doubles point for a seventh singles match before Kentucky proceeded to win four straight. 

Gus Benson, playing on the seventh court, took the lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Garrett Mandrell. Within seconds, Kevin Lai secured the team’s second point with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Ognjen Sunjevaric.

Stefanik capped a successful day with a quick, 6-1, 6-2 decision. Yates closed out the match swiftly with a 6-2, 6-4 win on the third court, splitting his matches for the day.

Matsumura, Bushamuka and Hussey’s second matches of the day went unfinished.

Singles Competition
1. Ryotaro Matsumura (UK) vs. Ritchie Kruunenberg (MORE) 6-3, 3-2, unfinished
2. William Bushamuka (UK) vs. Gabriel Ruuiz (MORE) 6-3, 3-4, unfinished
3. Trey Yates (UK) def. Enrique Samudio (MORE) 6-2, 6-4
4. Austin Hussey (UK) vs. Nick Mercer (MORE) 4-6, 3-3, unfinished
5. Jake Stefanik (UK) def. Sabastian Penaloza (MORE) 6-1, 6-2
6. Kevin Lai (UK) def. Ognjen Sunjevaric (MORE) 6-2, 6-2 
7. Gus Benson (UK) def. Garrett Mandrell (MORE) 6-2, 6-2

Match Notes:
Morehead State 3-7 (2-1 OVC)
Kentucky 13-4 (3-2 SEC); National ranking #18 Order of finish: Singles (7,6,5,3)

For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow @UKMensTennis on Twitter or Kentucky Men’s Tennis Team on Facebook.