Men’s Tennis: Northwestern avenges loss to North Carolina State, rolls through William & Mary

Abbey Chase, Reporter

Not since 2009 have the Wildcats seen a start like this.

Northwestern continued its tear through the first part of its non-conference season this weekend, taking out two tricky opponents.

The first match of the weekend pitted the Cats against a tough No. 35 North Carolina State. The last time the two teams met, the match ended in a crushing 7-0 defeat for NU. The Cats won the first set in four singles matches and looked to be in a winning position before they were shut out by a determined Wolfpack team.

But Friday’s match told a very different story.

“Yeah, we thought about it before the match and you use it as motivation,” sophomore Alex Pasareanu said. “We took a tough loss last season so we just used that to our advantage and played with a chip on our shoulder. We came out with guns blazing and ended up on top.”

After capturing the doubles point with two 8-4 wins, NU headed into singles play with the edge they had failed to gain last year.

A split at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions helped the Cats maintain a slim 2-1 lead with three of the remaining matches heading into a third set. Seniors Spencer Wolf and Chris Jackman both rallied from a one-set deficit to force a deciding set while Pasareanu was compelled to go the distance after dropping the second set.

“It was a close match,” Pasareanu said. “I played well throughout which helped me. I feel like I’ve been more mentally focused throughout my matches and it’s paying off.”

With last year’s match forgotten, the Cats didn’t let up and closed in on the victory. Wolf went on to take the third set 6-2 and Pasareanu shut the door on NC State with a tight 7-5 third set to clinch the match.

“They are a good team and it was a tough environment because we were playing on four courts rather than six,” coach Arvid Swan said. “I thought the guys competed really well. It was great to see Spencer turn his match at No. 1 around and obviously for Alex to clinch the match for us was great.”

On Sunday, NU continued to roll, taking out William & Mary 7-0.

As has been the case in each of their eight wins this season, the Cats secured the lead after taking the doubles point with wins again at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions.

“We have three teams that are at a very similar level,” Swan said. “Certainly whoever plays No. 1, it’s always going to be a tough match. That’s just the level of competition. We still have a lot to work on but the three teams for the most part have really come out to play every match.”

On the singles court, freshman Fedor Baev rolled to a quick 6-4, 6-4 win, and another straight sets victory by junior Raleigh Smith put NU one point away from the match. But the Cats once again had to take the win in deciding third sets.

Senior Sidarth Balaji, Jackman and Wolf all won their respective first sets but each relinquished the second, while Pasareanu fought back to keep himself in the match with a 6-3 second set.

“We had a lot of close matches,” Balaji said. “William & Mary is a good team so it wasn’t as easy as it looked. We were pretty comfortable throughout the match and it didn’t look like we would have any trouble but there were definitely some close matches towards the end.”

As Pasareanu had done against NC State, Balaji secured the win for the Cats with a 7-5 third set victory, while his three teammates went on to close out their respective matches to complete the sweep.

“The level of teams that we’re playing against, we don’t have any easy matches,” Swan said. “Would you rather close it out in two sets? Sure, but at the same time, we’re playing very good competition and we expect tough matches. It’s good that we’ve been able to win most of these three-setters.”

With a No. 34 ranking and an 8-1 record, with their only loss coming against No. 5 Duke, the Cats have gotten off to an auspicious start in 2013.

“Obviously our confidence is pretty high and I think we can definitely keep it rolling,” Pasareanu said. “I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t. We’re all playing great. We’re all supporting each other. We all have good energy out there and that’s the most important thing.”