Walk-on notches deciding win as Cats stomp all over DePaul

Tania Ganguli

Justin Hoeveler spent last year cheering and handing out towels. The Northwestern men’s tennis team, with no room left on its roster, relegated the then-freshman to unofficial practices and moral support.

But Hoeveler stuck with the team, and his patience paid off Thursday, as the reserve was the one everyone cheered for when he clinched the Wildcats’ victory over DePaul, beating his opponent 6-3, 6-1.

“It felt so great to be out there again and it was really fun to get the clincher,” Hoeveler said.

DePaul (2-10) started the match with a heavy disadvantage. The six-man squad lost freshman Eric Huffman to a knee injury, which meant the Blue Demons had to forfeit a doubles and singles match.

But NU (6-2, 1-1 Big Ten) was careful not to take the win for granted and bounced back from last weekend’s loss against Indiana to win 7-0 at Combe Tennis Center.

“We were very serious,” NU coach Paul Torricelli said. “They might not be a strong team, but the guy you’re playing might not be cooperative.”

Singles play featured an experimental line-up as sophomores Tommy Hanus and Chuck Perrin took a day off.

The Cats were up 2-0 after the doubles point, receiving a default win at the No. 6 position. Senior W. Russell Bennett didn’t take long to finish DePaul freshman Will Wang. Minutes later, Hoeveler took down Michael Fessler.

Senior Jackie Jenkins struggled to take his first set against Andy Michael 7-5, but the senior came back strong in his second set, allowing Michael only one game.

“I made it really hard on myself at first,” Jenkins said. “But there was no way I was losing today.”

Senior Josh Axler and freshman Adam Schaechterle both fought through tough matches and were relieved to come out on top after three grueling sets.

“When you win ugly it’s a lot more mental and it can feel really good,” Schaechterle said. “I was battling myself more than him some of the time.”

Axler’s frustration was apparent during the second set as he felt the match slipping from his hands. The senior fought to win 7-6 in the third set.

“I didn’t play great, but winning that after last weekend really lifted my confidence,” Axler said.

Torricelli said Schaechterle and Axler needed a challenging match to prepare them for Saturday’s contest at Notre Dame.

“Winning easily isn’t always good,” Torricelli said. “Struggling through those matches will help them mentally against Notre Dame.”

When NU heads to South Bend, Ind., this weekend, it will do so in hopes of ending a four-year skid against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame (3-5) returns home after a 4-3 win at Michigan State on Wednesday.

DEPAUL 0

NU 7