Northwestern will try to do what it has failed to all spring when the Big Ten tournament kicks off today in Iowa City, Iowa.
Knock off a Big Ten rival.
The Wildcats enter the tournament with an 0-10 conference record. They will have to beat No. 37 Indiana to snap their current seven-game losing streak.
NU’s younger players have come up big late in the season, putting the team in positions to win. Freshman Andrew McCarthy is coming off two big wins against Michigan State last Saturday. His recent victories in both doubles and singles have helped him rebound after many setbacks early in the season.
McCarthy sat out with an injury from September until mid-February.
“When I started to heal up and started loosening up a little bit more, I talked to coach about trying to add a little bit more to the team,” McCarthy said. “I started to believe in myself more in a lot of these matches.”
McCarthy has won five straight-set matches with relative ease in two of NU’s last three duals against Minnesota and Michigan State. He has also notched three of the team’s five points in the last three duals. The team will need McCarthy at full strength at the bottom of the lineup for a chance at an upset against Indiana.
The Cats dropped a hard-fought 5-2 dual to the Hoosiers on April 6 in Bloomington, Ind.
“(McCarthy) is now very close to being 100 percent, if not at 100 percent, and he’s a great competitor,” coach Arvid Swan said. “Now his game is backing up what a great competitor he is. He’s starting to play well again.”
The freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio did not see action in NU’s match against Indiana this season. But since then, he has been a crucial part of the doubles and singles lineups. McCarthy has played No. 5 and 6 in singles, and teamed up with graduate student Alexander Thams at No. 3 doubles.
Since Swan shuffled the lineup and paired up the graduate student and the freshman, they have won all three of their matches. NU has won the doubles point twice since Swan paired the two.
The Cats captured the doubles point against the Hoosiers earlier this month, and they will need to do it again. Indiana will be facing new duos at No. 2 and No. 3.
“Coach played around and mixed things up in our lineup,” McCarthy said. “I think this lineup right now, we’ve had some success with. The doubles point plays a big role in the momentum for us.”
NU is going into the tournament playing its best tennis despite the rough conference season. They are making progress and playing with more energy, Swan said.
In its last conference dual before the Big Ten tournament, NU came one point away from its first victory against Michigan State. It was the Cats’ only one-match loss in the conference.
“We need to go into this tournament playing relaxed,” McCarthy said. “I think that’s probably the best way to look at it, and hopefully we can pull out a couple wins.”