Brotherly love conquers Wildcats at Rice Invitational (Men’s Tennis)

Tania Ganguli

Siblings fight together and play together, but as the Northwestern men’s tennis team learned this weekend, it’s when they work together that they can be most dangerous.

When the Wildcats (8-7, 1-3 Big Ten) headed to Houston for the Rice Invitational last week, there were two sets of brothers waiting for them. But only the brothers who paired up could defeat the Cats.

The nation’s top-ranked doubles team, Robert and William Barker of Rice, defeated NU sophomore Chuck Perrin and senior Jackie Jenkins in doubles — then ranked No. 10 in the nation — but Clemson’s Micah and Nathan Thompson couldn’t take down sophomore Tommy Hanus and Jenkins in singles play.

When the Cats headed to Houston they were optimistic, but that optimism was quickly shattered when they faced Clemson (19-8) on March 22. Rain sent the first match of the invitational indoors.

Perrin took the first set against Jenkins’ younger brother Jarmaine, but the freshman came back to defeat his brother’s partner 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Clemson put the match out of reach before the doubles sets, so they were not played and Tigers won 4-2.

Next in line for NU was tournament host Rice. Perrin and Jenkins took on the Barker brothers, who dismantled them as Rice swept the doubles matches. Perrin and Jenkins have since dropped out of the rankings.

The Owls (14-3) won the next five singles matches before the Cats put a point on the board. This time it was NU junior Ahmed Wahla who defeated Vuk Rajevac 6-4, 2-6, 7-6. Rice went on to win its invitational for the fifth time in six years.

“The guys we played were a lot more experienced outdoors,” Hanus said. “It’s not like we didn’t play well, they just won out.”

After four straight matches of getting hammered by its opponents, NU didn’t have much left the morning it played Louisiana-Lafayette (7-6).

The Ragin’ Cajuns were supposed to go quietly, but in the final game of the Rice Invitational they took all three doubles sets. Doubles partners Perrin and Jenkins then split up for NU’s only singles wins, but it wasn’t enough for the Cats, as they fell 5-2.

“Losing to Louisiana-Lafayette was embarrassing,” freshman Adam Schaechterle said. “We were completely flat in doubles and everyone was getting frustrated.”

A week before heading to Houston for the Rice Invitational, the Cats faced Purdue and No. 1 Illinois on the weekend of March 7.

Schaechterle and his doubles partner, senior Josh Axler, prevented Purdue from sweeping the doubles sets, but the Boilermakers still won at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, gaining an early lead they would not relinquish.

One thing remained consistent for the Cats in their last five matches — they never won the doubles point. Despite these early blows, sophomore Tommy Hanus bounced back to win all but two of his singles matches. One loss came at Illinois (16-0, 4-0), where he lost to No. 22 Rajeev Ram.

“It was just a bad day for me,” Hanus said. “None of my shots were really working, and my opponent played really well.”

Illinois went on to shut out the Cats and preserve its undefeated record. It was the Fighting Illini’s sixth shutout this season.

“It’s been everyone taking their turns playing bad,” Schaechterle said. “We might’ve had half or more of the team ready to go, but in every single match there has been someone not ready. We’ve just all taken turns letting each other down.”

Coach Paul Torricelli dismissed the five game skid as character building and the result of a strong schedule. He remained confident that his team’s performance would improve.

“We didn’t lose to any bad teams,” Torricelli said. “Playing six bad teams in a row and winning is a false sense of security. Our losses aren’t good, but we’ve been getting challenged and our guys won’t stay down for long.”