Men’s Tennis: Wildcats win one, lose one in first weekend back

Abbey Chase, Reporter

A 1-1 weekend marked Northwestern’s return to action after a nearly three-week hiatus as the Wildcats took on familiar Big Ten foes Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“It some ways it was nice to get some guys healthy again, so I think that was a positive,” coach Arvid Swan said. “Taking 20 days off from match play, there’s some adjustment to get back into that, but if you look at it from an overall standpoint, it’s probably a little more important to get some of the guys healthy again.”

The last time the Cats took to the court, the team faced a tough Nebraska squad but defeated the Cornhuskers in a tight 5-2 match at home, despite surrendering the doubles point. The following day, NU defeated Iowa and Western Illinois, losing only two sets in both shutout wins. 

On Friday, the Cats faced off against No. 47 Minnesota. Although ranked lower than No. 26 NU, Minnesota came into the match with two close wins over Michigan and Michigan State on the road the previous weekend. 

Like in its match against Nebraska, NU dropped the doubles point, allowing the Golden Gophers to get on the board first. But this time, the Cats were unable to come back.

A win by senior Chris Jackman at the No. 6 spot helped keep the Cats in the match, but victories from two nationally-ranked Minnesota players secured the victory. NU would go on to win the remaining two matches at the Nos. 3 and 5 spots to bring the final score to 4-3.

“They’re a team that had some injuries early in the year, and I do think they’re playing exceptionally well right now,” Swan said. “I knew it was going to be a tough match, likely 4-3 either way.”

The Golden Gophers’ sole Big Ten loss this season came against then-No. 75 Wisconsin, the team NU soundly defeated Sunday. The Cats had little trouble handling the Badgers, now ranked at No. 70, in Madison, Wis.

Despite an 8-6 win from senior Spencer Wolf and freshman Mihir Kumar, who also won the lone doubles match against Minnesota, the Cats failed to get on the board first and headed into singles play facing a 1-0 deficit.

After posting a 10-5 doubles record during the winter non-conference season, NU has only won the doubles point in once in its Big Ten season so far. 

“It’s so weird, this scoring system, that after an hour of tennis, only one team gets one point,” junior Raleigh Smith said. “It doesn’t seem like that much on the score sheet, but in terms of momentum, it does play a huge role … Obviously we need to get better in doubles because we’re just making matches harder for ourselves by not winning the doubles point, but we do have confidence in our singles game, and we can put forth the effort and the wins when it needs to happen like that.”

Undaunted, the Cats posted four consecutive straight-sets wins to secure the match, dropping only the No. 5 match in a deciding 10-point tiebreaker. 

During its time off, NU was recognized off the court as the recipient of the ITA National Team Sportsmanship Award for March. 

“It’s nice for our guys to be recognized for the way in which they conduct themselves on the court,” Swan said. “I’m fortunate as a coach to have a really good group of guys. As people, they’re good kids so for other people to recognize that is a nice thing. When alums see that award, I think that’s also something that they can take pride in.”