Men’s Tennis: Northwestern champing at bit for second shot at Penn State

Sarah Kuta and Sarah Kuta

The Wildcats are on the prowl-for revenge.

After Northwestern’s devastatingly close 4-3 loss to Penn State last weekend, the Cats (9-14, 1-9 Big Ten) will have a second chance at the Nittany Lions (15-10, 3-7) today, as the two teams face off in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

“If you lose closely to a team you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth,” assistant coach Chris Drake said. “You want to play them again immediately and try to turn the tables.”

Just three days after that loss, the Cats have a chance to redeem themselves.

Andrew McCarthy and Tobias Reitz are more than ready for a repeat of Sunday’s No. 2 doubles showdown. After Penn State jumped out to an early 6-3 lead in the tiebreak, NU broke back 5-6 with an ace by Reitz. But the Nittany Lions crept back, winning the match and the doubles point.

“We’re excited to get our revenge for last week,” Reitz said. “We definitely want to go out there and beat those guys from Penn State this time and advance to the next round.”

If NU advances to the second round, they will face top seed Ohio State-another chance for payback. The Cats lost 6-1 to the Buckeyes last weekend.

At No. 1 singles against Ohio State, Josh Graves split the first two sets with No. 10 Chase Buchanan. Graves led 5-2 in the tiebreak, but Buchanan rallied to steal the deciding set.

“I don’t lose confidence from it,” Graves said. “I’m playing some of the top people in the country every week. I can’t control what the rankings are, but I can control what happens when that guy is on the other side of the court and I’m on my side.”

Graves attributed the team’s 1-9 conference record to inexperience-the team has young talent but lacks familiarity playing against highly-skilled teams.

Nowhere is that more true than at No. 1 singles, which the sophomore took over after playing at the bottom of the order last year. Graves, who dropped just five singles matches in 2009, will finish the regular season with a 10-12 record.

With just one junior and one senior, Drake said it was easier for the more inexperienced players to get caught up on individual successes and defeats as opposed to the team’s progress.

“It was difficult,” Drake said. “Sometimes if you’re losing a couple you start to think about it a little bit and that’s happened.”

Regardless of the outcome of the Big Ten Tournament, the season is already history for Graves.

“This is an improving year, a building year,” Graves said. “We’re a young team, myself included. We’re already getting ready for next year.”

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