Men’s Tennis: Wildcats split weekend pair against Michigan schools

Benjamin Taylor

Northwestern entered this weekend’s contest riding a four-match winning streak and with some confidence. The Wildcats finished it with a strong win and a crushing defeat.

The No. 48 Cats (12-7, 5-2 Big Ten) dominated Friday against the No. 57 Spartans, winning 6-1, but could not capitalize on opportunities in singles competition Sunday, ultimately falling to the No. 28 Wolverines 5-2.

“Beating Michigan State was a good effort, but against Michigan we didn’t play well,” coach Arvid Swan said.

NU started out strong Friday, with all three doubles pairings defeating Michigan State (14-10, 3-5) to pick up NU’s first point, after which the Cats did not let up, winning five of their six singles matches.

Among the top competitors on the day were junior Spencer Wolf and freshman Alex Pasareanu, who both had impressive performances. Wolf dominated Michigan State’s Denis Bogatov 6-3, 6-1, while Pasareanu came back after being down 1-4 to the Spartans’ Austin Brooks in the first set to win the match in straight sets 7-5, 6-2.

“Michigan State was awesome competition, as good as it was all year,” Wolf said, referring to the way the Cats competed hard throughout the match.

However the NU players did not experience the same success on Sunday, when Michigan (13-5, 6-1) swept NU in the doubles competition before going on to beat the Cats in four of the six singles matches.

Of the two NU players who won their singles matches on the day, sophomore Raleigh Smith had a good performance against the Wolverines’ Shaun Bernstein. After winning the first set of the match 6-1, Smith would end up losing a close second set 7-6 before winning the tiebreak 10-5 for the victory.

“I wish I pulled it out in two sets, but I guess a win is a win,” said Smith, who also noted that this match was more difficult than ones he had competed in previously due to the fact that his opponent repeatedly served underhand as opposed to a traditional overhand serve.

Similar to Smith, several of the NU players were disappointed in the Cats performance as a team on Sunday, feeling that they truly had an opportunity to beat Michigan despite the Wolverines high level of competition.

“Michigan is good, but we expect more from ourselves,” Wolf said, who also described his 6-0, 6-4 loss to Michigan’s Alex Petrone as the worst performance he has had during his time at NU.

For Swan, the performance this weekend shows that the Cats need to improve in both singles and doubles play, something he hopes to work on with the team this week in practice.

“We have to continue to improve our doubles play,” Swan said. “We can play better than we did (Sunday) in doubles. We also need to continue to be aggressive in our singles play.”