After an exciting weekend to end its regular season, Northwestern headed to the Big Ten Tournament to attempt to bring home its first-ever title.
In what has become a recurring event during its Big Ten season, NU, the No. 5 seed, failed to secure the doubles point and once again had to rely on singles play to make up the difference against 12th-seeded Iowa. But the Wildcats wasted no time in getting on the board against the Hawkeyes in singles.
Senior Chris Jackman did not surrender a game in his blitz over Andres Estenssoro at the No. 6 spot while senior Sidarth Balaji and junior Raleigh Smith surrendered only four games each in their respective straight-sets wins. Senior Spencer Wolf capped off the Cats’ win with his victory at the No. 1 position to ensure NU’s entry into the quarterfinals.
With its victory over Iowa, NU will move on to face No. 4-seed Illinois to play for a spot in the semifinals. The Fighting Illini defeated the Cats in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Tournament in Evanston last year and went on to take the title, upsetting the top seed, No. 3 Ohio State, 4-3 in the championship match.
NU and Illinois met in March for the Cats’ Big Ten opening match, with the Fighting Illini taking the match 5-2 in Champaign, but Smith and Jackman both came away victorious that day, with Jackman winning his match in a 10-point super tiebreaker after dropping the first set.
Playing in Columbus, Ohio, the rest of the field has its work cut out for them, with the No. 1-seed Ohio State lurking at the top of the draw. The Buckeyes have not lost a home match since April 2005 and have won the Big Ten Tournament six of the last seven years.