Torricelli Looking To Change Team’s Worst Statistic (Men’s Tennis)

Pritish Behuria

By Pritish BehuriaThe Daily Northwestern

Once in the last four years.

That’s how many times the Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA Championships in recent years.

This season, coach Paul Torricelli is looking to change that statistic.

With No. 38 Northwestern (5-6, 0-2 Big Ten) strengthening its schedule over past years, this year’s opponent list doesn’t look any easier.

“The strength of schedule is a big factor in getting into the NCAA tournament,” Torricelli said. “We could very easily be 9-2 right now if we played some easy teams, but we would have no chance of getting into the tournament.”

The Cats have already faced four teams ranked in the top 25, but lost all four. With three more games coming up against top 25 opposition, NU will need to step up its game.

“Numbers are not good indicators of our performance so far,” senior Christian Tempke said. “We play some top teams later and we can only improve if we play against better teams.”

NU demolished then-No. 30 Arkansas 7-0 earlier this month, following that up with a 4-3 win against Harvard. Since then, the Cats have been disappointing, losing their last three duals.

“Up and until this weekend, we were very optimistic about the season,” Torricelli said. “We should have won against Penn State but we were just not very consistent.”

The losing run included a dramatic loss against No. 58 Penn State in their Big Ten season opener on Saturday.

With the dual tied at 3-3, it went down to the No. 6 singles match between NU freshman Alex Sanborn and Penn State junior James Dwyer.

Sanborn dropped the matchup, but he has been impressive so far this season with a 6-5 singles record.

He has a hard act to follow after replacing Adam Schaechterle, who graduated last year. Schaechterle had been an important doubles player during his career, ending his doubles career with an overall record of 56-56 and a duals record of 37-30.

“Alex has contributed really well to the team and has fitted in well,” Torricelli said.

Tempke and Willy Lock, along with classmate Matt Christian, will look to take over the mantle as leaders this season.

Tempke has been unstoppable in singles action lately and is currently on a five-match winning streak. During that streak, he pulled through a three-set upset of Mississippi junior Robbye Poole, who is ranked 79th in the country.

“Christian Tempke is a whole lot of talent,” Sanborn said. “He’s been playing really well and he should have some big wins coming up.”

Lock and Christian have been ranked 27th in the nation’s top double tandems in the country. With a record an 11-8 overall record, their success will be important to the Cats’ qualification hopes.

“Qualifying in Division One tennis is very competitive and is just like qualifying in basketball,” Torricelli said. “We’ll have to fight through the whole season and do our best.”

Reach Pritish Behuria at [email protected]