Men’s Tennis: Wildcats sweep weekend, besting two ranked Michigan squads

Alex Lederman, Reporter

Northwestern rebounded from its recent losses looking stronger than ever, with convincing wins over No. 43 Michigan, No. 73 Michigan State and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis at this weekend’s home stand.

“These wins mean a lot for the team moving forward,” No. 113 freshman Sam Shropshire said. “We had a tough weekend last week where we blew a lot of chances, so it feels good to get three wins here.”

Perhaps most impressive was NU’s showing in doubles. The No. 37 Wildcats have struggled all year when sending two players onto the court at once. Prior to this weekend, NU had lost the doubles point in 12 of its 15 matchups against ranked opponents.

Not this time around, though. The Cats snagged the doubles point this weekend against all three of its foes. Senior Raleigh Smith and sophomore Mihir Kumar, the 30th-ranked doubles squad, returned to action rejuvenated after a week off, walking away with three victories. Coach Arvid Swan experimented with new teams last weekend after the duo struggled last month, but he brought back his strongest squad when alternatives didn’t fair any better.

Swan also found a winning combo for his second doubles team: Shropshire and freshman Konrad Zieba. Zieba, a highly ranked prospect after high school, has missed most of the season with injury. He and Shropshire nabbed two doubles wins for the Cats.

“With Zieba back in the lineup, we have a really solid team at the number two doubles,” Swan said. “We have an intact team at three that’s been good all year (sophomore Fedor Baev and freshman Strong Kirchheimer), and obviously Raleigh and Mihir are a top-30 team all year, so we’re putting three good teams out there.”

The singles players picked up right where the doubles teams left off. After scoring the doubles point against Michigan on Friday, NU won five of the six singles matches. The only Cat who fell was the captain, No. 37 Smith. Michigan’s top player, No. 115 Alex Petrone, edged out Smith in a three set nail-biter 6-4, 5-7, 1-0 (10-6).

Still, the Cats triumphed over the Wolverines before Michigan even got on the scoreboard, earning the four points necessary to win before Michigan got its first. NU would go on to win 6-1, with Kumar claiming an epic 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-5), 1-0 (10-8) three setter to close it out for the Cats.

The scoreboard at the tennis courts looked similar Sunday, when NU toppled Michigan State by an identical 6-1. Once again, the Cats’ leader and best player, Smith, suffered NU’s only defeat. Drew Lied handed Smith his fourth consecutive loss, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Swan gave Smith a rest in singles for that night’s match against IUPUI.

“Raleigh will be fine,” Swan said. “He’s one of the best players in the conference. He’ll get right back at it.”

Shropshire, Zieba and Kirchheimer each came away with three-set wins against the Spartans.

After its uplifting conference victories, NU handled business against IUPUI, shutting out the Jaguars 5-0.

“We’ll enjoy these wins for the night,” Kirchheimer said. “But then we’re gonna get back to the same mentality with a chip on our shoulder next week when we travel to Nebraska and Iowa.”

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