Men’s Tennis: Wildcats look to bounce back from first losses against MTSU, UIC

Abbey Chase, Reporter

Northwestern’s momentous start to the season was slowed last weekend after dropping two tough matches 4-3. But the Wildcats will have the chance to get back on track facing off against two teams that have never beaten NU.

A packed schedule at home last weekend saw the Cats stumble for the first time this season.

“It’s been our philosophy to play as many good non-conference teams as we can in preparation for the Big Ten, which is a really tough tennis conference,” coach Arvid Swan said in an interview last month. “We’re playing the doubleheaders because we need to get a lot of matches in. That’s just how my team functions, we play better when we’re playing a lot and the guys do put in the work from the physical fitness side.”

Although they are ranked higher than Vanderbilt, NU fell just short of taking out the Commodores, a team that has given the Cats trouble in the past. NU has gone 0-4 in their last four matches against Vanderbilt, losing three of those 4-3.

Despite leading 3-1 in the match, the Cats gave up their third loss of the season against Harvard on Saturday before rebounding to take out Valparaiso 7-0 in their second match of the day, bringing their season record to 9-3. 

A major component of the team has been its depth, and it’s something that has worked both ways for NU.

At the top positions, the Cats have struggled to win matches. The No. 1 doubles team has won only 29 percent of its matches. But the key to the NU’s doubles success has been in its No. 2 and 3 teams, both holding 80 percent winning records. 

The same can be said of singles. While the top two positions have won 60 percent of their matches, the No. 3 position, held down almost exclusively by senior Sidarth Balaji, has yielded a victory for the Cats over 90 percent of the time. Balaji has dropped just one match this season against North Carolina State earlier this month.  

This weekend will feature the Cats fourth doubleheader of the season but unlike last weekend, NU will have the clear edge. Facing off against Middle Tennessee State and University of Illinois-Chicago, the Cats will be going up against two teams against whom they hold a combined 17-0 record. 

In last year’s matches with the Blue Raiders and the Flames, NU surrendered just one match combined against both teams, dropping the No. 1 singles match to Middle Tennessee State. 

After this weekend, the Cats will have just two matches left before the start of Big Ten play. They will open with a match against their state rival, the University of Illinois, in Champaign, Ill. early next month.