Cats tough as tandems, but shaky singles play dooms them

Nina Mandell

With a rowdy crowd and a 1-0 lead after doubles play, it seemed like the No. 37 Northwestern men’s tennis was on its way to beating No. 50 Notre Dame for the second year in a row.

But then came the singles matches.

The Wildcats’ doubles success was wasted when they lost 5-of-6 singles matches in a 5-2 loss to the Fighting Irish. NU won two of the three doubles matches to gain the doubles’ point. Before the game, coach Paul Torricelli predicted the doubles point would be a big factor. But the solid doubles performances did not carry over to the Cats’ ailing singles play.

“I thought it was possibly our best doubles effort of the year, even though we didn’t sweep,” Torricelli said. “I thought we really came out and played good doubles on all three courts from the beginning.”

Sophomore Adam Schaechterle was the only Wildcats player to win in singles play, defeating Eric Langenkamp, 6-3, 6-4, at the No. 6 spot. He remains undefeated against Notre Dame. Last year, he won the match that clinched the win for the Cats in a third-set tiebreaker.

History also almost repeated itself for Tommy Hanus, who lost in three sets, 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, to Luis Haddock at the No. 1 singles spot. When Haddock and Hanus faced off last year, it was Hanus who scored an important victory for the Cats, defeating Haddock in a close match, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5.

The Cats’ trouble began after the first sets of the singles matches. NU players won 4-of-6 first sets, with only Chuck Perrin at No. 2 and Matt Christian at No. 5 falling behind. But the Cats lost their momentum in the second sets. The change in pace surprised NU as much as anyone.

“We came out and played great first sets and I thought by the time my match was over, we were in great shape,” Schaechterle said. “And then I saw Tommy (Hanus) had a tough break and things started to go bad.”

The loss marked the second home defeat for NU this year, and its second loss to a ranked team in two weeks. Although the Cats are ranked higher than Notre Dame, Torricelli said he saw the match as one of the best tests this year for his team. NU still holds a 37-33 all-time lead against Notre Dame.

“It’s always a great match,” Torricelli said. “Their ranking will move way up during the course of the year, so I am disappointed in this opportunity. But, if you’re good, you win, and they were better.”

The loss ended an eight-game home stretch for the Cats, who will not play in Evanston again until April 2.

With the loss putting a damper on an otherwise good home stretch, the Cats are looking forward to playing their rival Notre Dame again.

“We hate Notre Dame,” Schaechterle said. “Nothing against the guys, we just want to beat them.”