Men’s Tennis: Northwestern aims to stay undefeated at home against Notre Dame

Kevin Casey, Reporter

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Following an exhausting but successful home weekend for Northwestern, the Wildcats are left with just two days to prepare for one of the best teams they have faced all season. 

Once again, NU (7-2) will play in the Combe Tennis Center, this time hosting No. 16 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish hold a 6-1 mark heading into their contest against the Cats on Tuesday. 

Their most recent match produced that sole defeat, to No. 22 Illinois, but the squad has already compiled quite a resume. Through seven matches, Notre Dame’s list of victims includes No. 50 Michigan State, No. 39 Minnesota and two wins over No. 17 Kentucky.  

Considering the totality of what Notre Dame has accomplished in such a short time, it may seem unwise for NU to make this its fourth match in five days.

But coach Arvid Swan was dismissive of fatigue playing a factor.

“We’re fit, so Monday we’ll have a practice that won’t be quite as strenuous, but we still practice hard,” Swan said. “I mean, we’re fit, we’re fine, that doesn’t bother us.”

What might bother the Cats more is Greg Andrews. The Notre Dame senior is currently the No. 22 singles player in the country and half of the No. 21 doubles squad.

But Andrews has struggled of late in singles, posting four consecutive losses in straight sets in that area. Doubles is a different story, with Andrews and partner Alex Lawson putting together six consecutive victories to start the season before a 6-2 loss at Illinois. 

NU’s doubles teams discovered their own fine form this past weekend. In a trio of blowout victories, the home squad dominated doubles on all three occasions, leaving their foes little chance of obtaining that crucial first point.

The team actually played well in all phases of these matches, with no weak link exposing itself in the proceedings.

Notre Dame will present a different challenge. Still, senior Raleigh Smith sees a lot from this weekend’s play that could catapult NU to a victory Tuesday.

“We can just take confidence from this past weekend,” Smith said. “We played well, and the score was pretty decisive. Obviously we expect a huge battle from Notre Dame, a top-20 team. So, confidence and the belief that we can win this match at home are huge.”

The Cats have yet to drop a point at home this season, an impressive streak likely to come to an end against a squad of Notre Dame’s caliber.

The key is whether or not the home winning streak will come to a halt. In that department, Swan is blunt about what his players must do to avoid that fate.

“We’ve got to compete great. We’ve got to play great doubles and we’ve got to play great in singles,” Swan said. “In the new rankings, I believe Notre Dame will be top 15, maybe top 10, but we’ll see there. They’ll be right around there though. We’ll have to bring it.”

Twitter: @KevinCasey19