Trailing 6-3 against Purdue in the deciding match for the doubles point, senior Alex Sanborn and sophomore Eric Spector mounted a rally, winning four consecutive games. The duo held a 7-6 advantage before faltering and dropping the final three matches.
“We had the momentum because we had won four games in a row,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We lost it there at the end. It’s tough to lose that doubles point because it was certainly winnable.”
After losing the doubles point, the 48th ranked Wildcats were in a position they have been in many times this season, needing to win four out of six singles matches to take the contest. Instead, they lost four out of six.
“It’s a tough one to take,” Swan said. “Give (Purdue) credit. They did a nice job and they deserved to beat us today. We just didn’t get it done in doubles and didn’t play well enough to win four out of six.”
NU lost 5-2 to the Boilermakers, marking the third consecutive match the Cats have lost by that score. NU has dropped three straight and seven of nine.
The Cats got a strong performance from sophomore Josh Graves on Sunday. After taking a 4-0 lead, Graves held on to beat Purdue’s Slavko Bijelica 7-5 in the first set. He followed with a dominant second set, ultimately defeating Bijelica 7-5, 6-2.
“I played the right style today, ” Graves said. “I had a couple losses the last two matches, so it felt really good to win and work on the things I hadn’t done well in the past couple matches.”
Graves used his range to his advantage against Bijelica, keeping point after point alive until his opponent finally made a mistake.
“I don’t give up on any ball and I try to run down tough shots,” Graves said. “I’m pretty fast and it usually works out when you put those two together.”
NU’s only other win came at No. 6 singles, where Sanborn defeated Thomas Wilson 6-4, 6-2. The win marks the senior captain’s third in his last four matches. Sanborn’s only loss came Friday at No. 33 Wisconsin when he fell in straight sets to Chris Freeman.
The Cats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in Madison, Wis., securing the doubles point with wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. Sanborn, Spector and freshman Spencer Wolf all carried the momentum into their singles matches. The trio played close first sets, but Wolf was the only one to capitalize, as NU dropped five of six singles matches.
“Wolf played a very good match,” Swan said. “And then two of those spots we had a chance to win, we were up in sets and just didn’t get it done.”
After giving the Badgers a scare, the Cats figured to be favorites at home against a Purdue team that was still seeking its first road and conference win. But instead, NU came up short.
“We’re a young team,” Graves said. “We have to learn from this. We’re just going to try and improve on it. This is a tough loss.”
The defeat at Vandy Christie Tennis Center marks the team’s fifth straight home loss, and after losing five of six conference matches, a frustrated NU squad is still waiting for the results to reflect their work.
“We put in a lot of hard work and we’re one of the tougher programs in terms of fitness and when it comes to academics,” Wolf said. “We all have a lot of work on and off the court. It’s just kind of disappointing when you put in all that work and you don’t see the results right away.”
The Cats are already halfway through their conference season, and Swan said they have no time to waste.
“The rest of the season, we’ve got to step up,” Swan said. “We’ve got to get better in areas, we’ve got to find a way to win the doubles point and we have to find a way to win more singles matches. We need to figure out a way to get better in a short period of time.”[email protected]