Gali earns MAC Player of the Week honors after picking up pair of key singles wins


April 26, 2005

Gali earns MAC Player of the Week honors after picking up pair of key singles wins
CLEVELAND, OH---Is there anybody left to beat? Northern Illinois University men's tennis player Willy Gali might have taken them all out over the last three-and-a-half months, compiling a career-long 20-match win streak to close out the regular season. The senior's accomplishments were rewarded Tuesday (Apr. 26) with his first career Mid-American Conference Player of the Week honor.

Gali (Barcelona, Spain / Ies Avsias March) has been nothing short of spectacular all spring, having not lost a singles match since falling to 103rd-ranked Andrew Formanczyk of Michigan State University all the way back on Jan. 15. Since that time, the Huskie No. 1 has rattled off 20 consecutive victories including 15 in straight sets. Only two-time First Team All-MAC honoree and Ball State No. 1 Matt Baccarani has extended Gali to a third set in his last 11 matches dating back to Mar. 5. Gali still came out on top, posting a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 10-7 victory over the Cardinal junior Saturday (Apr. 23).

"Willy has been absolutely outstanding this year," NIU head coach Pontus Hiort said. "To go through an entire spring season and lose just one match speaks very highly of his strength, determination, and mental toughness. Our younger guys really look up to him, and he has provided a great example of how to compete on a daily basis and even win matches when you aren't necessarily at your best."

The Barcelona, Spain, native also added a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne's Landry Nzudie Sunday (Apr. 24) to close out the regular season at 29-4 in singles play including a 20-1 mark in dual meets at the No. 1 spot. With one more victory, Gali can join some elite company as one of just four Huskies to ever rack up 30 singles wins in a single season (Steve Wiere with 35 in 1986-87, Sunu Thomas with 34 in 1994-95, and Mike Hill with 31 in 1985-86).

"Willy really thrives in a team environment," Hiort explained. "He definitely performs at his best when he is playing as part of a group and not just for himself. It's just another example of his character and what makes him such a great leader."

It hasn't been an easy road towards the 30-win plateau. Gali owns victories against five of the Big Ten's 11 No. 1 players, owning a 5-1 record against opponents from the league. Two of those wins kickstarted the spring-long win streak when Gali bounced back from the Formanczyk setback to defeat Wisconsin's Alex Kasarov (6-4, 6-4) and Iowa's Chaitu Malempati (3-6, 7-6, 6-3) on consecutive weekends. Gali also owns a win over Joerg Barthel of Big 12 representative Nebraska---a 6-4, 6-4 victory at the Milwaukee Classic on Nov. 3.

A leading candidate for MAC Player of the Year honors, Gali is the only No. 1 player in the league to boast an undefeated 5-0 mark in conference duals this season. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the senior is also vying to become the third consecutive Huskie to take home the Jack Vredevelt Sportsmanship award, following in the footsteps of Raymond van Wasbeek (2003) and Juan Pablo Barriga (2004).

"Willy has been a great ambassador for this program and all of NIU Athletics since the day he got here," Hiort added. "He's a great sportsman, a great student, and as a coaching staff, we couldn't ask for better senior leadership than what we've gotten out of Willy this year."

Gali and the rest of the Northern Illinois squad kick off play at the MAC Tournament Thursday (Apr. 28) with a quarterfinal matchup against the University of Toledo. First serve is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (EDT) in Kalamazoo, MI.




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