Former partners now Big Ten foes (Men’s Tennis)

Tania Ganguli

When they started high school, Russell Bennett and Pete Rosebarely knew each other.

Growing up in Wilmette, Ill., Bennett always knew he’d go to NewTrier High School. Rose, on the other hand, moved to Glencoe beforehis freshman year solely for the purpose of attending theprestigious athletic high school.

“I didn’t know Pete well, but we became friends,” said Bennett,now a senior on the Northwestern men’s tennis team. “We were theyoung guys. We went through getting initiated and having to dealwith all that stuff you go through again in college.”

Their chemistry on and off the court helped New Trier to threestate titles, one of which was especially sweet for the pair.

“Sophomore year was special,” Bennett said. “Pete and I werestill trying to prove ourselves and thenwe won the Illinois statehigh school doubles championship. It was our first time playing infront of a crowd, and it was on TV. It was kind of a big deal atthe time.”

Both players would get many more chances to play in front of bigcrowds as they headed to the Big Ten. Bennett and Rose, who is asenior at Iowa, will meet again this weekend as the Wildcats (8-7,1-3 Big Ten) take on the Hawkeyes on Sunday at Combe Tennis Centerthe day after NU hosts No. 12 Minnesota.

The Gophers (13-3, 4-1) are currently third in the conferenceand are coming off a 6-1 win against Michigan State. The Gophers’only conference loss came at the hands of undefeated Illinois, aloss that Minnesota coach David Geatz has not forgotten.

“I don’t think Illinois is going to lose another match, so wecertainly can’t either,” Geatz said.

Geatz said he has been impressed with his team’s “fight anddesire” during matches, despite their lack of discipline duringpractice. He also said the Gophers’ attitude has a major part ofthe team’s success this season.

The Cats, in the midst of a five-match skid, are ready to dowhat it takes.

“Minnesota’s ranked No. 12 in the country right now,” NUassistant coach Jay Udwadia said. “And looking down the road, if wecan knock off a team like that, we’ll definitely be in the NCAAtournament.”

The Gophers have started 12 of their 13 wins by taking thedoubles point, and the Cats plan to be prepared for the Gophers’doubles strength.

“We’ve really been emphasizing doubles a lot this week,switching up the teams a little,” sophomore Chuck Perrin said.”It’s really energized us. If we get the doubles point, the singlesmatches will work themselves out.”

Iowa (5-7, 1-4) has not enjoyed the same early success asMinnesota — the Hawkeyes lost their first three Big Ten matchesbefore finally defeating Michigan 4-3.

“Iowa’s been down this year, but we know from experience thatanyone can be dangerous,” Udwadia said.

The Cats are also counting on the home court advantage theyhaven’t had in more than a month to help them this weekend. Thelast time NU played in Evanston, it steamrolled DePaul 7-0 on Feb.20.

“We’re really going to feed off crowd support this weekend,”sophomore Tommy Hanus said.

Hanus has won 14 of his last 19 singles matches and is now at19-11, one win away from his win total from last year. But it willtake more than just Hanus for the Cats to find success thisweekend.

“It’s going to come down to who wants it more and getting ourfocus back on every match,” freshman Adam Schaechterle said. “It’san intensity battle and we’re going to use some of the hurt fromspring break to win it.”