Men’s Tennis: MSU defeat caps winless Big Ten year

Marcelino Benito Jr.

Northwestern and Michigan State both went into Saturday’s match winless in the Big Ten. The Wildcats left East Lansing, Mich., as the only remaining squad at the bottom of the standings.

NU lost a hard-fought 4-3 match against the Spartans and extended its losing streak to seven consecutive matches.

The Cats (7-16, 0-10 Big Ten) played their best tennis of the season against the Spartans but failed to capture the decisive match at No. 2 singles. NU sophomore Alex Sanborn dropped a back-and-forth three setter 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

“I was the one controlling the points most of the time,” Sanborn said. “But in the third set, I started missing easy shots. I just got kind of tight.”

The loss gave Michigan State its first Big Ten win of the season.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re struggling to win a match in the conference, but we competed really hard,” coach Arvid Swan said.

While the Spartans entered the match without a conference victory, their lineup featured strong players at lines one through four. Nick Rink, a two-time All Big Ten player, led a Michigan State lineup with more experience than NU’s. But at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, the Cats took advantage of the Spartans’ lack of experience. Freshmen Andrew McCarthy and David Seyferth both secured singles wins to put the Cats in a position to pull out the dual victory.

McCarthy, who returned from injury in February, also won his doubles match with graduate student Alexander Thams at No. 3. It was the second time in three duals that McCarthy pulled out wins in both singles and doubles.

“Injuries had kind of affected me mentally and physically early on,” he said. “I feel good about what I’ve been able to give to the team in this last part of the season. The work I did really paid off.”

For the second straight dual, the Cats failed to come through in singles, wasting another doubles point. NU clinched doubles wins at No. 1 and No. 3 to take the pivotal point, but its top four singles players were unable to notch a win against the Spartans.

Still, Swan said he was pleased with the progress the Cats are making in doubles play, especially since shuffling the No. 2 and No. 3 teams. The mixing and matching of partners has produced greater success in recent weeks.

“It’s extremely important to start off well, especially where we are at as a team,” he said. “If we get the doubles point, we put ourselves at least in a position to compete and win the match.”

With the Big Ten tournament starting Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, the Cats have little time to dwell on their rough regular season. NU is scheduled to take on No. 39 Indiana, a team it lost to 5-2 on April 6.

There is no pressure, Sanborn said.

“I think line by line all the matches are winnable,” he said. “We just got to go out there and play our game.”

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