Men’s Tennis: Wildcats look to get out ahead against weekend opponents

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Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Freshman Strong Kirchheimer hopes to duplicate the success he had against Michigan and Michigan State players at last fall’s Big Ten Singles Championships. Northwestern takes on the Wolverines and Spartans this weekend in Evanston.

Alex Lederman, Reporter

No. 37 Northwestern is in for a busy weekend, welcoming No. 43 Michigan, No. 73 Michigan State and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to Evanston after a pair of heartbreaking losses on the road.

On last weekend’s road trip, the Wildcats (12-9, 1-4 Big Ten) fell 4-3 to both Ohio State and Penn State. The Cats have now lost four of their first five Big Ten matchups.

Coach Arvid Swan said the team has been practicing doubles all week to prepare for this weekend’s conference contests.

“We’ve been playing pretty good singles,” Swan said. “If we can get a doubles point against each team, the expectation is we’ll do very well.”

Of the 15 ranked foes NU has battled this season, it has only topped three of them in doubles. They have lost the doubles point in all their Big Ten matches.

“We want to bring more energy in doubles,” Swan said. “The goal is to get both singles and doubles working at the same time.”

NU has done well in Evanston this season, sporting a 9-2 home record against just 2-6 on the road. But the ground beneath their feet is not all the Cats are familiar with.

“We know these teams pretty well,” Swan said. “We see the players in the fall, we play them every year and we also see them in the conference tournament. After each match we certainly make adjustments to our scouting reports, but the Big Ten teams know each other really well.”

NU’s players squared off against many Wolverines and Spartans earlier this season at the Big Ten Singles Championship. In his impressive run to the semifinals, freshman Strong Kirchheimer triumphed over Michigan’s Barrett Franks and Shaun Bernstein and Michigan State’s Brett Forman.

Junior Alberto Zanotti dropped his second-round matchup 6-4, 6-2 to Michigan’s Vlad Stefan, and freshman Alp Horoz lost his play-in match to Mac Roy of Michigan State.

Michigan currently sits 11-8 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines are coming off a 7-0 sweep against Nebraska and a 5-2 victory versus Iowa, two teams NU has not yet faced. Last year, Michigan finished second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, and junior captain Alex Petrone currently ranks 113th in the nation.

Similarly, Michigan State also just scored back-to-back wins against Nebraska and Iowa. Like the Wildcats, both the Spartans (8-10, 2-3 Big Ten) and the Wolverines fell to Ohio State and Penn State.

When the two teams faced off themselves, Michigan edged out Michigan State 4-3.

To close out the weekend, the Cats will take on IUPUI. The Jaguars are 3-15 overall and 1-12 on the road.

Senior captain Raleigh Smith leads NU’s young roster. Smith, ranked 44th in the nation in singles, will only have two home matches left in his NU career after this weekend. He heads a lineup with four talented freshmen, including No. 85 Sam Shropshire.

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