Men’s Tennis: Wildcats bow out of Big Ten semifinals to eventual champion Buckeyes

Alex Lederman, Reporter

The Wildcats were finally tamed.

Riding a nine-match winning streak into the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, No. 32 Northwestern (21-10, 7-4 Big Ten) was ready to show defending champion No. 2 Ohio State (30-3, 11-0) what it was made of.

But the Buckeyes reminded the Cats why they are ranked second in the country, trouncing NU 4-0 on Saturday.

“Ohio State, I give them a lot of credit,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We hung in there for a while, but they played an outstanding match.”

The Cats fought hard for the doubles point but ultimately came up short. First, Hunter Callahan and Chris Diaz snapped the six-match win streak of NU freshman Strong Kirchheimer and sophomore Fedor Baev with an 8-5 victory at No. 3 doubles. Then, NU’s 28th-ranked duo of senior Raleigh Smith and sophomore Mihir Kumar fell to the 57th-ranked pair of Peter Kobelt and Ralf Steinbach.

Since Ohio State had the two wins necessary to clinch the doubles point, play was halted at 7-7 in the match of the No. 2 doubles team of freshman Sam Shropshire and junior Alex Pasareanu.

“What we could have done better was start out quicker, especially in doubles,” Swan said. “They got a pretty good lead at number one doubles, and we came back and really made it a match, but that was a tough situation. It was the same thing at number three doubles. If we had started a little bit quicker in doubles, maybe we convert that point and then we have some momentum going into singles.”

As for singles, the Cats fell quicker than the blink of a buckeye.

Pasareanu, No. 46 Smith and Kirchheimer each lost in straight sets to hand Ohio State the victory. Kirchheimer’s loss had not lost in singles since early March, with his defeat ending a 12-match win streak.

Although No. 120 Shropshire, Kumar and freshman Konrad Zieba each won their first sets, it didn’t matter. The Buckeyes were already advancing to the finals of the tournament and play was suspended. Ohio State would go on to top No. 12 Illinois in the finals 4-2 to defend its title.

Still, the weekend had positive notes for the Cats.

One day earlier, fifth-seeded NU clobbered No. 34 and fourth-seeded Purdue 4-0 to advance to the semifinals.

“Our match against Purdue was perhaps the best match we’ve played all year in terms of putting everything together,” Swan said.

This time, NU secured the doubles point, and Smith, Kumar and Shropshire each cruised to straight set victories, extending the team’s win streak to nine.

In addition, Smith and Shropshire were named first team All-Big Ten selections, Shropshire earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Pasareanu received a sportsmanship award.

And the loss to Ohio State doesn’t change a thing for the Cats headed into the NCAA Tournament.

“The guys are confident,” Swan said. “We have great momentum, having won nine out of our past ten matches. We understand that if we want to advance to the round of 16, we’re going to have to beat two quality teams. When you play Purdue and Ohio State, it’s straight preparation for the quality teams you’ll play in the NCAA tournament.”

Email: [email protected]