Men’s Tennis: Northwestern loses pair to Minnesota, Iowa; still looking for second Big Ten victory

Sarah Kuta

Northwestern will have to wait another week in its quest for a second conference victory.

During their final two road matches of the season, the 53rd-ranked Wildcats (9-12, 1-7 Big Ten) suffered losses to No. 37 Minnesota (11-9, 4-4) and No. 72 Iowa (11-8, 3-5). With just two matches until the Big Ten Tournament, NU finds itself at the bottom of the conference with a .125 winning percentage, tied for last with Purdue and Michigan.

At Iowa City, Iowa, NU grabbed the doubles point with wins at all three positions. After winning their third conference doubles point of the season, the Cats came out firing for singles play.

But the momentum couldn’t carry the Cats. The dominating doubles point would be the team’s sole success for the day, as the Hawkeyes flattened the Cats in all six singles matches.

“We played our best doubles point we’ve played in a long time,” coach Arvid Swan said.”We had chances to win at nearly every position and we just didn’t capitalize. We had some match points at a few spots and we didn’t get those. They won the points at the end of the match and we did not.”

By moving sophomore Josh Graves and freshman Spencer Wolf into the No. 1 doubles spot and adding freshman Sidarth Balaji back into the doubles mix, Swan has finally found his doubles lineup. And just in time for the end of the season.

Though the Cats came out aggressively, the Hawkeyes won the first set of every singles match except at No. 5. Senior captain Alex Sanborn won the first set 6-3 but was unable to win one of the final two. “Singles was a little rough,” Sanborn said. “I played alright in the first set and a half. (Tommy McGeorge) started playing a little better, he raised his game. He brought it back and won the second set and he beat me in the third set pretty easily.”

Though the Cats fell 5-2 to the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, Wolf and Graves made the most of their new No. 1 doubles spot with a convincing 8-5 win over Phillip Arndt and Sebastian Gallego. The pair has won four of the last five matches.

Wolf, who was 3-1 on the weekend, also defeated Rok Bonin at No. 3 singles. Wolf took the first set 6-1 before dropping the second 5-7. After deciding on a “back-to-basics” mentality in the third set, Wolf stormed back for an easy 6-1 win. The freshman now leads the team with 11 singles victories.

“I had an opportunity to close him out in two sets,” Wolf said. “The third set I just regrouped and tried to play the way that I know how to play.”

The Cats’ only other win over the Gophers came from Sanborn at No. 5 singles. Sanborn split the first two sets with Arndt before pulling away with a 6-3 win in the third set. The senior improved to 10-10 on the season and leads the team with four conference singles victories.

Though NU is unsatisfied with the number of conference wins it has achieved heading into the final weekend of regular season play, Wolf and the Cats will continue to focus on each individual match instead of the big picture.

“We don’t really carry our losses around with us,” he said. “We’re a team that stays in the moment and focuses on what we have to do to get better.”

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