Men’s Tennis: Cats unafraid of tough action ahead

Steven Montero

The Wildcats are preparing to head outdoors as spring brings the Big Ten season and the matches begin to intensify, including facing No. 5 Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.

As of now the Cats are 9-7, but within the Big Ten they’ve lost both of their matches. Coach Arvid Swan said the team has done a great job in a lot of areas and they are continuing to improve, but several injuries as well as some last-second losses have given the Cats trouble.

“I don’t think there’s going to be one match which will be an easy match,” Swan said.

He said Northwestern has begun training for their upcoming outdoor events this season, but their main focus is the upcoming weekend where they will face “very competitive” opponents.

Sophomore Chris Jackman said that the close matches and the entire season have only prepared the team more for their remaining adversaries.

“We’re at the point that we feel like we need to start putting everything together that we’ve worked for the whole season and not delay it anymore,” Jackman said. “We’re going to harness everything we’ve worked on and start actually putting it together. That’s what we’re planning out this weekend to do against Ohio State and definitely come out with the win against Penn State.”

But winning within the Big Ten is not an easy feat. The tough conference boasts some of the best players and teams in the nation.

Luckily, NU has grown a lot stronger than last year with its improvement in “very consistent” doubles matches. Swan said this helped to “cover up the gaps” of last year’s performance.

“Last year a lot of heartbreakers we had were because we lost the doubles point,” Jackman said. “We’d always go into every single match losing the doubles point and having to play from behind. This year we’ve actually reversed that and we’re winning almost every single doubles match.”

Senior Joshua Graves and sophomore Spencer Wolf lead the Cats with a 12-2 record in doubles, and have been almost unstoppable in securing the doubles point for them in matches.

“We’re really playing for each other, which is a good thing,” Graves said. “Because when I look over, I see the other guys playing hard and wanting to win for me and I’m wanting to win for them.”

Graves said he tries to not have any expectations for the season but instead to take each moment as it comes. He’s worked on trying to be more efficient with his footwork, as well as his aggressiveness. But the most important thing he had to work on throughout play was finding his “match rhythm.”

“I’ve started to really find that rhythm recently,” Graves said. “I think I’m playing some of my best tennis. I worked on very specific things of my game in the fall and they’re starting to show through when I’m playing matches.”

Swan doesn’t want to make any predictions for the team’s future either, but rather focus on their upcoming competitor of Ohio State.

“We’re actually excited for the match,” Jackman said. “It’s definitely our hardest opponent of the year so it’s that huge David and Goliath feeling going in. We shouldn’t feel too much pressure going in so it should give us a chance to relax and play loosely and definitely give us chances to win the matches.”

This weekend may bring NU its first “great win” of the season, which Graves said has yet to happen. He said he is proud of the progress the team had made, and they have given themselves at least a chance to succeed in every single match.

“The wins will come,” Graves said. “That has to be our mentality going forward, that if we keep working hard we’ll get the wins.”

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