The Daily Northwestern

Men’s Tennis: Wildcats nip Nittany Lions, fall to Buckeyes in quarterfinals

Jonah L. Rosenblum

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Northwestern rolled into the second round of the 2007 Big Ten Tournament after a 4-1 victory over Michigan State. In that round NU hit a brick wall, as No. 3 Ohio State shut it out 4-0.

Three seasons later, the Wildcats suffered the same fate.

After freshman Chris Jackman’s third-set heroics propelled NU into the second round of this year’s Big Ten Tournament, the Cats were unable to maintain momentum, falling 4-0 to No. 4 Ohio State.

“Ohio State is very good,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We felt there were certain positions that we had a chance to win, but we didn’t extend the match out long enough for those people to win.”

On Thursday morning, the Cats got revenege on Penn State, defeating the Nittany Lions 4-3 in the first round just five days after Penn State took down NU in Evanston. The Cats’ 4-3 win snapped a seven-game losing streak and marked NU’s first conference tournament victory since 2007.

“We’ve had a rough season this year,” Jackman said following the Cats’ win over Penn State. “We got off to a good start and towards the end, we started losing. It’s huge. Especially since we lost on our home court (to Ohio State and Penn State).”

Next up, NU took on an Ohio State team that had beaten the Cats one week earlier. This time, NU’s attempt at revenge fell short.

The Cats began with a tough doubles point against the Buckeyes. After sophomore Tobias Reitz and senior Alex Sanborn fell 8-0 at No. 2, No. 84 Joshua Graves and Spencer Wolf took a 7-5 lead against No. 15 Chase Buchanan and Dino Marcan. The duo had a chance to serve for the match, but they ultimately fell, 9-7.

“We were a couple points away from winning,” Graves said. “We played well but we didn’t play aggressively enough in the home stretch.”

If Graves and Wolf had won, NU would have had a chance at the doubles point, as freshman Sidarth Balaji and junior Andrew McCarthy were down just 7-6 at No. 3.

“When you get chances against the No. 4 team in the country, you got to finish it,” Swan said. “Otherwise, they’re going to come back and win.”

Instead of doubles coming down to a deciding third match, the Cats were behind 1-0.Straight-set singles losses by Balaji, McCarthy and Sanborn sealed NU’s fate. Balaji lost 6-3, 6-1 to No. 31 Justin Kronauge while McCarthy and Sanborn both fell to unranked opponents.

“Ohio State is very good,” Swan said. “You need to win the doubles point at least where we’re at to have even a shot to beat them.”

Ultimately, the match was not close-when the Buckeyes clinched the victory, the Cats were down a set in all three unfinished singles matches.

“We lost some momentum after doubles for sure,” Graves said. “We all felt we put in a good effort. They worked hard. They put themselves in a good position. They’re a tough team. It was a good experience for us.”

Jackman said Swan spoke to his team at the end of the regular season about starting a new era of men’s tennis at NU.

“(He said) it’s a new start,” Jackman said. “It’s a new season. At any point, we could get a win and build momentum.”

Ohio State marked NU’s sixth consecutive ranked opponent. The Cats have taken on top-75 opponents in 19 of their 25 matches this season. The experience against top teams could prove helpful to NU’s chances next season.

“Experience helps in closing stuff out,” Graves said. “The most important thing is when it’s time to win, you got to take it and win. That’s what the best players do, and we all need to improve on that next year.”