Men’s Tennis: Wildcats shut out trio of opponents at home

Kevin Casey, Reporter

If a return to the confines of the Combe Tennis Center was supposed to serve as Northwestern’s path back to the winners’ circle, the Wildcats rode that trail to perfection.

For NU, the busy weekend, which included three matches over three days, was a fruitful one.

First, the No. 30 Cats welcomed Rice to NU on Friday night and quickly laid down a whooping. The visiting Owls never had a chance as the home team pounced on the opening doubles point and secured the first three singles matches to stake out a 4-0 victory.

Cornell fared little better against NU on Sunday. Once again, the Cats took the doubles point and the first three singles, producing another 4-0 triumph. This contest was arguably even more impressive. The Big Red were nationally ranked, No. 62, and at the time of completion, the remaining three singles matches were all heavily in NU’s favor.

Senior Raleigh Smith and freshmen Sam Shropshire and Strong Kirchheimer each won the first sets of their singles matches and were all up in the second at the time of completion.

Coach Arvid Swan was impressed with his squad’s performance.

“Those were two good wins for us against quality opponents,” Swan said. “I was pleased with that. It was definitely a big step up in terms of the difference between the way we played at Vanderbilt and the way we played this weekend. I was pleased with the effort and the competitiveness of the team, and we played better as a result.”

One such improvement was in doubles play: NU had been up and down in that department this season, recording a 3-3 mark coming into the weekend.

The struggles vanished during the weekend’s home slate. In the Rice and Cornell matches, the Cats were ruthless. Against the Owls, NU won 6-2 and 6-3 in the first two doubles contests, with the third one left unfinished with NU leading 5-3. The numbers against the Big Red were nearly identical, with the first and second battle both ending 6-3.

Smith was a part of the team that won 6-2 against Rice, and had the Cornell No. 40 doubles team down 5-3.

In the aftermath, the senior was satisfied with the doubles competition.

“We played some good doubles this weekend,” Smith said. “Mihir (Kumar) and I got cut off this morning but we felt like we were going to win. On Friday, Mihir and I played well and we didn’t think we were going to finish because the other guys were up 5-2 as well. We all had a pretty good weekend there.”

NU’s final match of the weekend saw the Cats face Western Illinois on Sunday evening, a considerably weaker opponent who the team pummeled easily, 7-0.

The doubles mastery continued, and no cracks in singles play seemed readily apparent. Smith, who did not play against the Leathernecks, felt “everybody handled their business” and were “efficient” in their play.

The Cats are still yet to lose a point, let alone a match, at home this season. No. 16 Notre Dame will be easily the greatest test NU will have faced at home when the Fighting Irish travel to Evanston on Tuesday.

Freshman Alp Horoz was impressed with the fire he and his teammates played with throughout the weekend. If the Cats bring that against the Fighting Irish, the team has a good shot of continuing its home dominance, he said.

“We competed well and we carried each other through by keeping the energy high,” Horoz said. “Momentum carried through the courts and it helped each one of us play better. Against Notre Dame, we have to compete very hard like we did this weekend and we’ll be fine.”

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