Men’s Tennis: What a difference a year makes for Northwestern

Abbey Chase and Abbey Chase

Heading into their final weekend of Big Ten dual matches, the Wildcats have proven this year is nothing like the last.

Following a 2-8 record in conference play last season, Northwestern has turned the tables and prepares to enter their final two Big Ten matches against Purdue and Indiana with a 6-3 record.

Despite losing their final three matches before conference play began, NU quickly got into a groove once Big Ten matches started, beginning a five-match winning streak and taking out No. 36 Minnesota, Wisconsin and No. 57 Michigan State, teams that foiled the Cats last year.

NU’s winning streak ended following a 5-2 loss at home to a formidable No. 28 Michigan, but the team was able to rebound with a win over Penn State in University Park, Pa., on Friday.

The Cats’ win over the Nittany Lions was representative of the team’s success over the course of the Big Ten season. NU secured the crucial doubles point following victories by the team of senior Josh Graves and junior Spencer Wolf and the team of freshman Alex Pasareanu and sophomore Raleigh Smith, all of whom claim a 6-3 doubles record in Big Ten play with the exception of Graves, who did not play doubles in the team’s first match against Illinois.

On the singles court, Pasareanu continued a successful inaugural season, one in which he has earned a winning record on both the singles and doubles courts. He secured the match for NU for the third time in conference play with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1 win over Christopher Hasyn at the No. 5 position.

“Alex was very good from the start, he’s a really talented player, and I think he’s got a great future here and after,” Graves said.

During his freshman year, Graves notched a highly impressive 19-5 singles record, and he credited head coach Arvid Swan’s intensity during practice and in the gym for his early success. At this point in the season, Pasareanu holds a 13-11 record.

On Sunday, the Cats faced their toughest challenge yet, taking on No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. Being on the road didn’t stop NU from getting off to a quick start, taking the doubles point to lead the Buckeyes 1-0. After splitting the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches, it was up to Graves and Wolf to secure the first point of the match for the Cats. Against Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola, the No. 1 doubles team in the country, the pair scored their biggest win of the season, upsetting the previously undefeated Ohio State tandem 8-6.

“Spencer and I were on the same page the whole match,” Graves said. “We knew what we wanted to execute, and we went out there and served really well and did it. We played (Buchanan) before, (during) my sophomore year, and I think we had two times where we were serving for the match against the No. 1 team, so it felt good to finally finish it off at the time. We’ve always been right there with them, but we really just went the extra step this time.”

In their final weekend of dual matches, the Cats will be facing two teams that got the best of them last year, but against whom they have lifetime winning records. They lead the Boilermakers 62-20 and just barely hold the edge over the Hoosiers 41-39. NU will take on Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., on Friday before returning home to face off against Indiana on Sunday.

“I can’t believe that I only have two more matches left. The time goes by so quickly,” Graves said. “I just really want to enjoy the matches. The team is on a good track right now and I think we’ll keep it up this weekend.”

[email protected]