Men’s Tennis: Northwestern comes up big in crucial points to seal Middle Tennessee State win


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Freshman Sam Shropshire hits a forehand return. Shropshire was one of three Northwestern singles players who dropped their first sets against Middle Tennessee State, only to come back and win in three.

Kevin Casey, Reporter

The state of Tennessee may have been unkind to Northwestern earlier this month in the team’s first trip there this season, but a second visit proved to be the remedy.

On Sunday, the No. 30 Wildcats got a scare from No. 56 Middle Tennessee State in the Blue Raiders’ home court, but the road squad prevailed in a tight 4-3 win.

If the Cats appeared on the mark in the early proceedings against Notre Dame on Tuesday, they produced the opposite versus Middle Tennessee State.

NU had previously found a groove in doubles, winning the point in three consecutive matches and was in prime position to up that number to four until some late follies allowed the Fighting Irish to snap the streak. But the Cats regressed mightily in that area on Sunday, as they lost the first two doubles matches by convincing 6-3 margins. The third contest was left unfinished at 4-4.

“Doubles was not a very good point for us,” coach Arvid Swan said. “I want to give Middle Tennessee credit — they played a real good doubles point and came out strong.”

Matters got worse before getting better. The courts only serviced four singles matches at a time and in that initial quartet, the Blue Raiders were victorious in three of the opening sets. Two of the set wins were by 6-2 margins, foreshadowing trouble for any belief in a comeback.

Sam Shropshire, one of those first set victims, noted that there was a certain sluggishness to the squad early on.

“After that first set, I was just trying to get into it,” the freshman said. “I played a tough doubles match before that, the other guys played pretty well. We weren’t really sharp as we should’ve been and it kind of carried over to singles.”

Possibly on the ropes, though, the Cats responded with a vigorous display. Sophomore Mihir Kumar couldn’t turn his match, dropping NU in an 0-2 hole, but his teammates picked up the slack. Freshman Strong Kirchheimer demolished his opponent 6-1, 6-2 over the final two sets of his match to get NU on the board. Shropshire, the 81st ranked singles player, followed suit, putting his first-set loss behind him and coming home in 6-4, 6-2 fashion.

No. 111 Raleigh Smith pushed that margin to 3-2 with his own three-set victory. Needing just one point from the final two singles matches, NU got it from Fedor Baev’s 6-4, 7-6 triumph.

“The guys just fought,” Swan said. “We were down in three first sets and the guys kept competing, kept coming at Middle Tennessee. They really did a good job after those tough first sets kind of collecting themselves and playing with a lot of emotion in sets two and three.”

For the Cats, this was a welcome result after falling to Notre Dame in a match where they seemed to play well enough to win, except in the crucial points.

NU had no such trouble this time around, and Swan admitted it was nice to get the W after a “tough loss” to the Fighting Irish.

Still, the coach has been preaching for constant improvement throughout the season, and his players are keying in on that mindset.

“Middle Tennessee’s a good team, so this is a good win,” Baev said. “We’ll have to work in doubles though in order to come out with more energy, a higher efficiency and just being harder to beat.”

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