Sweet send-off: Upset victory completes Senior Day

Steve Silver and Steve Silver

Although it was Senior Day at the Combe Indoor Tennis Center on Sunday, junior Adam Schaechterle became the main attraction for the capacity crowd as he clinched a 5-2 victory over No. 24 Ohio State in a straight-set win at No. 6 singles.

This is the first time the Wildcats (11-11, 6-4 Big Ten) have beaten the Buckeyes (17-7, 8-2) since 1999.

Along with defeating a top-25 team, the Cats now have won five of their last six matches heading into the Big Ten tournament this weekend.

“It looks like we saved our best playing for the end of the season,” coach Paul Torricelli said. “I knew the guys were ready to play because practice was awful this week. Whenever practice is bad at the end of the season, it means they can’t wait to play a match.”

The Cats took an early lead Sunday, notching the doubles point with wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions.

Schaechterle and sophomore Christian Tempke defeated sophomores Devin Mullings and Chris Klingemann 8-5 at the No. 2 spot.

The No. 1 doubles team of seniors Tommy Hanus and Chuck Perrin had their five-match win streak snapped, losing 8-5.

To clinch the doubles point, senior Justin Hoeveler and sophomore Willy Lock battled back from an early deficit to defeat sophomore Joey Atas and junior Dennis Mertens 8-5.

“The match was in Justin’s racket as he fought off so many game points,” Schaechterle said. “It gave everyone a boost when they won that match.”

The Cats then won four of six singles matches to solidify their team win.

The overall match point was won at the No. 6 singles spot, as Schaechterle overcame a two-game deficit in the first set to win in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (3-1). After winning the second set 6-2, he secured the win for NU.

“I just felt like I was tougher mentally,” Schaechterle said. “I knew that if it came down to pure guts, I would eventually pull it out.”

Hanus, who has been plagued with knee and hip-flexor injuries since the Cats’ loss at Illinois on April 16, defeated Mullings 6-3, 7-6 (6-4) with a knee brace on his left leg.

“Oh, it’s bad,” Hanus said in reference to his leg injury. “I mean, I’m doing OK, but I just try to keep points short.”

Perrin and sophomore Matt Christian lost at the No. 2 and No. 5 singles spots.

Tempke pulled out a three-set victory, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, over Klingemann at No. 2 singles.

At No. 4 singles, Lock increased his win streak to nine after defeating Green 7-6, 6-3. Lock has won 10 of his last 11 singles matches.

The victory over Ohio State is not only a motivation boost heading into the Big Ten tournament, it also moves the Cats into a “bubble” position for the NCAA championships.

“Three weeks ago, when we lost to Indiana, I told them to forget about the NCAAs,” Torricelli said. “They sure didn’t forget or quit working hard. Now we are back in the picture for the NCAAs.”

This is the second time the Cats have defeated a top-25 team at home. On Jan. 30, the Cats topped then-No. 18 North Carolina 5-2.

On Sunday, inclement weather forced the match indoors, but the change of court did not seem to faze the Cats.

“I love this place. It is great to end on a win, especially here,” said Hanus, referring to the Combe Tennis Center. This year’s seniors are the first class to play all four years at Combe.

Although seniors Hanus, Perrin and Hoeveler said they were thrilled to win their final home match, they all seem to have their minds set on proving they can compete with the best teams in the Big Ten and the nation.

“We are playing well as an entire team right now,” Hoeveler said. “It doesn’t matter who we have to play in the Big Ten tournament. There is no team we can’t beat right now.”

Reach Steve Silver at [email protected]