Men’s Tennis: Northwestern puts undefeated record on the line versus Western Michigan

Rebecca Friedman

Northwestern can look back on past matches with Western Michigan fondly.

The Wildcats have defeated the Broncos in their past three meetings and boast a 47-5 all-time record against them. The streak of success will be put to the test when NU hosts Western Michigan on Saturday.

The Cats are coming off a week and a half break, after jumping out to an impressive 4-0 start to the winter portion of the season, including an impressive upset of Alabama and a 6-1 victory over William & Mary on January 20 and 22, respectively.

Coach Arvid Swan said he was happy with the wins but was eager to get his players to put it behind them and focus on the next opponent.

“We have individual things for each guy to work on,” Swan said. “We got the win and we have to get ready for Western Michigan and see if we can get another win there.”

The play of senior Josh Graves has led the Cats thus far in 2012. Graves has yet to lose a doubles or singles match this year. His impressive streak of wins includes the clinching match against Alabama and dominant No. 2 singles victories over University of Illinois-Chicago and Ball State.

Sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Nikhil Jayashankar have also provided Swan confidence throughout his lineup.

Jayashankar has been consistent at No. 6 singles, winning all three of his matches against UIC, Alabama and William & Mary.

Smith has been a reliant force in both doubles and singles, dropping only one doubles match all year, an 8-3 loss against the Crimson Tide.

So far this year, Swan has been fairly consistent with his lineups from match to match. Graves and junior Spencer Wolf consistently play in two of the top three singles spots while also playing together in the No. 1 doubles spot.

“Our doubles teams have been doing well all year,” Wolf said.

Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu have shown chemistry at No. 2 doubles and have played there in all four matches this year. Junior Sidarth Balaji has played at the No. 1 singles spot in three out of the four matches.

Given the team’s 4-0 start, Swan said he was simply sticking with the lineup that worked.

Despite the Cats’ recent dominance over them, the Broncos are a formidable opponent and one that can help prepare NU for upcoming Big Ten matches.

Western Michigan won the MAC conference last year and boasts a 4-2 record on the season thus far.

Wolf said he is confident that Western Michigan and the other non-conference matches scheduled this season will prime the team for success in the Big Ten.

“We have a really strong schedule this year,” he said. “We have tough matches from the beginning all the way through.”

Swan said he believes that his team has a lot of fight in them, demonstrated by their victories in close sets and sets in which they were down early.

The Cats aim to bring that fight into their remaining eight non-conference matches as well as eventual Big Ten play.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing in past matches,” Wolf said.

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