Men’s Tennis: McCarthy, Cats travel to Wolverine State looking for first conference win

Sarah Kuta

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Andrew McCarthy had no qualms about being the last man standing Sunday. Northwestern had already lost five singles matches and the doubles point to Indiana-the Hoosiers had seemingly swept the match.

For McCarthy, it wasn’t over yet.

After splitting the first two sets, he took the tiebreak 15-13 to win the decisive set. After a five-game losing streak, McCarthy’s close win over Jeremy Langer was a chance for the junior to get back on his feet and gain momentum as the No. 45 Wildcats (8-7, 0-2 Big Ten) prepare to face Michigan State (11-7, 0-3 Big Ten) and No. 28 Michigan (7-7, 3-0 Big Ten) this weekend.

“I was in a slump, I had a lot of pressure going into that match,” McCarthy said. “I’ve improved mentally in dealing with tight situations. I’m feeling a lot better going into this weekend.”

McCarthy and the Cats will travel to East Lansing, Mich., and Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend in hopes of garnering their first Big Ten victory of the season.

The 6-foot junior from Cincinnati is the third of four brothers, all of whom have played tennis in the Big Ten. While younger brother Devin is a sophomore at Ohio State, McCarthy’s older brothers Mike and Ryan played at Indiana.

Now the roles are reversed, as McCarthy is one of just two upperclassmen on the team. McCarthy prefers to lead by example, a style coach Arvid Swan appreciates.

“He brings it every day in practice,” Swan said. “He’s incredibly intense in terms of his work ethic, so that sets the tone.”

Though McCarthy has been deterred by several injuries throughout his collegiate career, his dedication to the Cats has been unwavering.

“When he was in the lineup, he gave us everything he had and when he wasn’t in the lineup, he supported his teammates,” Swan said. “Everybody’s happy for him because he’s just a great support.”

That same support will be crucial this weekend as McCarthy will most likely play No. 103 Evan King or No. 42 Jason Jung at No. 2 singles. King, a highly-touted lefty, is 15-10 in singles his first season. Jung, the 2007 Big Ten Singles Champion and 2008 Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional Doubles Champion, plays a right–handed game different from King’s, McCarthy said.

Michigan is fresh off of three Big Ten wins over Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan State, while NU has lost four of its last five matches. In 2009, the Cats split the singles matches and lost the doubles point for a tight 4-3 loss to the Wolverines. Then in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan ousted NU again, 4-2.

But as freshman Sidharth Balaji said, the Cats aren’t looking back at last year­-or at the Cats’ recent two-game skid.

“We’ve got a new team now,” he said. “We’re trying to win those close matches. The main thing is not to look back at the losses we had these last two matches. It’s a new match.”

That same philosophy will be useful this weekend for playing two teams on separate ends of the Big Ten spectrum. While Michigan sits near the top of the conference, Michigan State is still searching for it’s first Big Ten win.

As Swan explained, the pair of teams from The Wolverine State possess different strengths. The Spartans are a defensively skilled team, Swan said, whereas the Wolverines tend to be more offensive.

For McCarthy, the distinctions between the two teams are trivial. Losing streak behind him, what really matters is how he and his team compete.

“We have to work equally hard in order to come up with a win,” he said. “We’re ready for adversity.”