NCAA Mens Tennis

‘There’s A Chip on Our Shoulder’: Horve, Okonkwo Team Up in Sixth, Final Season at Illinois

'There's A Chip on Our Shoulder': Horve, Okonkwo Team Up in Sixth, Final Season at Illinois

Individually, Lucas Horve and Oliver Okonkwo could not be more different. Horve is from central Illinois; Okonkwo is Maidenhead, Berkshire, England. Horve is 5’10”; Okonkwo is 6’3″. Okonkwo can go on an emotional roller coaster; Horve is there to ride those waves and provide support and affirmation.

Yet, despite their differences, their connection on the court is seamless. OK, maybe not all the time. They might run into each other every so often, and the occasional errant serve might hit the other in the back of the head. They are getting there, though. They only started playing as a doubles pairing this fall, after all.

They have hit the ground running, though, as they both enter their respective sixth and final seasons in college with the Fighting Illini men’s tennis program.

“We were always individuals who knew that if we got paired up together, we’d work well together,” Horve said. “We finally got our chance this fall, and it’s been working really well. I’ve watched Ollie play, and I always knew he would complement my doubles game very well. Getting the chance this fall was great because what I envisioned in my head came true.”

While they may have their differences, their styles of play complement each other perfectly. Okonkwo is a big hitter whose serves and forehands often draw a weak ball back, while Horve is nimble and quick and cleans things up at the net.

As the two oldest guys on the team, the pair has bonded over their age and experience, which has strengthened their chemistry both on and off the court.

“We joke about it, but we do see each other as the old men of our team, and it’s something we really bonded on,” Okonkwo said. “We know what each other is going through. Obviously, we’re good friends as well. My game complements his, and his game complements mine, so I think it works pretty well.”

Horve calls Okonkwo “one of the best players and one of the best doubles players in the country,” as the England native’s elite serve game frequently puts opponents on their back foot. Okonkwo’s ability to be a force at the baseline sets him apart from other doubles players Horve has competed with, and he is thankful to “have him on my side.”

Returning the favor, Okonkwo praised Horve’s presence at the net, saying he has “never played with anybody who moves as well as he does at the net.” Horve’s calmness on…

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