Men’s Tennis: Northwestern goes out with a bang against Purdue, Indiana

Northwestern tennis player Alex Pasareanu won both of his matches this past weekend. The sophomore scored an easy 6-2, 6-1 over Indiana Sunday to help the Wildcats trounce the Hoosiers 6-1 in the season finale.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern tennis player Alex Pasareanu won both of his matches this past weekend. The sophomore scored an easy 6-2, 6-1 over Indiana Sunday to help the Wildcats trounce the Hoosiers 6-1 in the season finale.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

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Peaking at the right time is critical in sports, and the Wildcats did just that in their final weekend of regular season competition.

Friday’s match wasn’t always the prettiest or most civil affair, but Northwestern walked away with a dramatic win over Purdue after exhibiting tenacity in a contentious match.

“That was probably the most heated match I’ve been a part of so far this year,” freshman Mihir Kumar said. “That’s college tennis, really. It was really cool to be a part of it, and obviously you want to walk away with the victory. I thought we really fought for that.”

The Cats struggled with doubles at first, looking out of sorts early and failing to get the first point of the match.

“It was a bit of a slow start,” coach Arvid Swan said. “I still think we were playing the right way. We just didn’t go for our shots on critical points against Purdue. We were kind of letting them dictate against us a bit.”

Dogged play from Kumar and seniors Chris Jackman and Spencer Wolf in three respective first-set tiebreakers ensured that NU took a one-set advantage across the board in singles.

Senior Sidarth Balaji and Kumar put away two straight-sets victories to gain the lead in the match, followed by a win by Wolf to put the Cats within a point of the duel victory. But a bizarre turn of events meant the match was far from over.

In the second set of the No. 6 singles match, Jackman won the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and headed to the changeover before his opponent, Evan Hawkins, received a code violation. Hawkins was issued a game penalty, giving Jackman the decisive 10th game for the win before the head official overruled the call and play continued. Jackman failed to win another game that set, falling 7-5 to force a deciding set.

Meanwhile, junior Raleigh Smith had lost at the No. 2 spot, bringing the overall score to 3-2, and sophomore Alex Pasareanu was down a break in his final set as Jackman prepared to take the court for his third set.

“I was down but I thought if I fight back, I’d definitely give myself a chance to win, and I knew it was important for that match and for the team as a whole,” Pasareanu said. “What definitely made the biggest difference was all my teammates supporting me.”

With the match on the line, Pasareanu rallied in the third set, winning four straight games to take the final set 6-4. Jackman went on to defeat Hawkins 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3, ensuring all three seniors won their singles matches in the final home match of their careers.

After a tense match Friday night, NU headed to Bloomington, Ind., to take on Indiana on Sunday, when the Cats played spoiler to the Hoosiers’ final home weekend of the season.

A faster start on the doubles court gave the Cats a 1-0 lead to begin singles play, and NU wasted no time picking up where it left off Friday night.

“We played really hard and played a very good doubles point and again really competitive in singles,” Swan said. “That’s been our focus all year, playing a complete match in doubles and then all six singles and all the guys working towards a win.”

Three quick wins by Pasareanu, Jackman and Kumar helped the Cats take the decisive fourth point of the match, followed by wins from Wolf and Smith.

With its clean 6-1 victory over Indiana, NU wrapped up its Big Ten schedule with a 6-5 record  and ended its regular season on a high note, claiming two wins to help earn the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

“We felt very good about ourselves after Friday, and we came out (Sunday) very fired up,” Kumar said. “We really punched them in the mouth right away. We got up early on so many courts. The momentum carried over from Friday, and we played one of our best matches of the year.”