Northwestern crumbles in close sets, falls to Notre Dame

Rebecca Friedman

The Wildcats had a fighting chance Tuesday but with the pressure ramped up late in close sets, Northwestern crumbled.

NU fell to No. 30 Notre Dame, 5-2.

Entering the match with a 5-0 record on the season, the Cats couldn’t quite keep up with the Fighting Irish, who handed them their first loss of the year.

NU, which had taken all five doubles points in its past five victories, found itself down 1-0 going into singles play for the first time.

“I thought that (Notre Dame) had improved their doubles from last year,” coach Arvid Swan said.

After taking a 2-0 lead, the No. 2 doubles pairing of sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu conceded six consecutive games to Notre Dame’s Greg Andrews and Spencer Talmadge and were unable to recover, falling 8-3.

“I can’t talk for the other courts, but my court, we got off to a quick start, and I thought things were looking good,” Smith said. “Then they reeled off six games in a row and we completely lost momentum. We stayed positive, but we couldn’t pull it out.”

In No. 1 doubles, senior Josh Graves and junior Spencer Wolf started by trading wins with Casey Watt and Niall Fitzgerald, but lost the last four games in a row, allowing the Fighting Irish to clinch the doubles point with an 8-4 victory.

“(Notre Dame) did a good job, obviously,” Swan said. “We were in a position midway through doubles to win the doubles point, and they maybe played some critical points a little bit better than we did. It was not our best performance in doubles.”

Despite the disadvantage of losing the first point, Smith insisted that the morale of the team was not affected.

“It’s just different being up 1-0 and being down 1-0. We thought we were going to win in singles after losing the doubles point. It’s just a little harder that way,” Smith said. “Had we won the doubles point we would have put ourselves in a much better position to win the match as a team.”

The Cats also got off to a good start in singles but were once again unable to maintain momentum.

Freshman Nikhil Jayashankar fell first in No. 6 singles, after coming up short 6-4 in a back-and-forth first set and conceding the second 6-1.

In No. 1 singles, junior Sidarth Balaji pushed the first set to a 5-5 tie, but couldn’t pull it out, dropping the set 7-5. He went on to lose the second set 6-3.

Pasareanu won the first point for the Cats, even though the Fighting Irish clinched the match with Sam Keeton’s 6-4, 6-4 win in No. 2 singles over Wolf. Pasareanu jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first set and was able to hang on for a 6-3 victory.

“I played really aggressively,” Pasareanu said. “I stayed on the offense the majority of the time. If I stayed on defense it wouldn’t have worked. I knew that from the beginning.”

Pasareanu continued to possess the momentum, going up 4-1 in the second set, but he diverged from his game and allowed Notre Dame’s Blas Moros a 6-4 victory in the second set.

“I extended the points a little longer than I should have,” Pasareanu said. “I got more on the defensive, and that’s what allowed him to come back and me to kind of lose my momentum.”

However, Pasareanu regained focus in the third set, claiming the tiebreaker 10-4.

Smith won the Cats’ sole other point in another close match. After claiming the first set 7-6, with a 7-4 victory in the tiebreaker, Smith fell short 6-4 in the second set.

“It was a really competitive set all the way through,” he said.

Although the match had been long clinched by the Irish, Smith battled through a third set tiebreaker to claim the Cats’ second point.

“They’re good in singles,” Swan said. “We were up and needed to be a little more aggressive to finish the first sets. They did a good job staying in close matches, and we lost a few of the first sets that we maybe had some opportunities to win.”

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