Seniors set to star in home finale (Men’s Tennis)

Tania Ganguli

Experience is a word coaches and players love to throwaround.

It seasons players; it matures teams; when it’s missing itexplains losses. But sometimes it hardly means a thing. All seasonthe Northwestern men’s tennis team (9-8, 2-4 Big Ten) has prideditself on its experience, but the Wildcats have a tradition ofplaying young players higher in the lineup.

“I got a chance to play higher up when I was younger,” seniorJackie Jenkins said. “Being a senior, you’ve been there, and youknow what to do.”

Jenkins played at No. 1 and No. 2 his sophomore year and thenwent down to No. 4 by his junior year. That year Tommy Hanus cameto Evanston and took over the No. 1 spot. On senior day the Catswill honor Jenkins, Josh Axler and Russell Bennett — and they willget a chance to show Penn State that they have more to offer thanjust their age.

“Experience helps you get confidence and know what to expect,but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” NU coach Paul Torricelli said.”In the end you have no one to rely on but yourself.”

That lesson is one the Nittany Lions taught numerous foes at thebeginning of this season. Penn State’s top three players are allfreshmen — Nate Emge, Mark Barry and Malcolm Scatliffe — and ledthe team to a 13-3 start. After dropping its last three matches toIndiana, Purdue and No. 1 Illinois, Penn State has dropped to 13-6and 2-4 in the Big Ten.

“Playing a year helps you realize it’s a long season,” sophomoreChuck Perrin said. “As a freshman you sometimes get caught up inthe standings and that really wears you down.”

After NU takes on Penn State, it will face No. 23 OhioState.

Ohio State’s No. 21 Jeremy Wurtzman is 5-1 in conference singlesmatches, under the watchful eye of his brother, assistant coachMarc Wurtzman.

“At No. 1 and No. 2 it’s a war zone,” Ohio State coach Ty Tuckersaid. “But Jeremy’s one of the best players in the country. That’sit.”

The Buckeyes (15-5, 5-1 Big Ten) started the season 5-0, theirbest start since 1989. They then suffered their first loss of theseason to then-No. 1 UCLA. Another loss came at the hands ofcurrently top-ranked Illinois,

5-2. They were the only Big Ten team that put any points on theboard against the Illini.

The Cats know they have their work cut out for them against OhioState, but they have remained energized and confident about theweekend.

“Everybody’s been really excited and upbeat in practice,” Axlersaid. “It’s not a jittery excitement, more a confidentexcitement.”