Men’s Tennis: Northwestern bests ranked foes in weekend sweep at home

Max Schuman, Reporter

Another tough slate of matches didn’t slow down the Wildcats, as No. 26 Northwestern enjoyed a fruitful weekend at home winning three straight matches.

The Cats (6-4) put together a complete performance Friday night to defeat No. 45 Boise State, 7-0, then followed the win on Sunday with a 4-3 victory over No. 30 Harvard and a 6-1 triumph over Valparaiso.

These latest results bring NU to 4-1 at the Combe Tennis Center this season. Coach Arvid Swan noted his team’s inspired home performance after the matches.

“It’s important to utilize the home advantage, which we did,” he said. “The guys really fought this weekend.”

As has been a trend in the team’s challenging non-conference season, the Cats squared off against a pair of ranked teams, winning the matches in significantly different fashions.

It took a comeback to down the Crimson on Sunday. Harvard took the doubles point to get out to an early 1-0 lead and grabbed a 3-1 edge when sophomore Sam Shropshire fell to the Crimson’s Denis Nguyen, who is ranked 57th in the nation, 7-5, 6-1 in the No. 1 spot.

From there the Cats controlled the match. Sophomore Strong Kirchheimer took three sets to defeat Harvard’s Nicky Hu, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 and halve the deficit. Junior Fedor Baev then closed out his match against Brian Yeung, 7-5, 6-3, to tie the match.

As it has so often for the Cats this season, the match fell to the final point, where, for the second time this season, Alp Horoz won it for his team. The sophomore closed out a 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 victory over Harvard’s Kenny Tao.

In the aftermath, Horoz was quick to defer the spotlight to his team.

“We worked hard to win the match, so I was happy to win for my teammates,” he said.

The dramatic contest against the Crimson was sandwiched between two comprehensive victories for NU.

The first came Friday night against the Broncos. Horoz and junior Mihir Kumar closed out the Boise State pairing of Brian Foley and Danny Moyer in the third doubles set to take the doubles point and give the Cats an edge they wouldn’t relinquish. Straight-sets wins by Horoz, Shropshire and Kirchheimer in singles sealed the match for NU, with freshman Logan Staggs, Baev and Kumar also finishing their matches with victories to set the final margin.

The Cats followed a similar path to victory Sunday night against Valparaiso. Horoz and Kumar fell behind early in the deciding match of doubles as Horoz struggled with an apparent back injury. Down 5-2, the duo stayed focused through the adversity and climbed back to a 7-5 victory that gave NU the point and the momentum, and silenced a sizeable Valparaiso contingent in the crowd.

“I sensed that they were getting a little jumpy, so I figured if we stayed calm they’d start to fall apart, and that’s what happened,” Kumar said of his doubles opponents.

Straight-set wins by Kirchheimer, Staggs and Kumar in singles clinched the NU victory, with Baev and Shropshire also chipping in singles wins. Senior Alex Pasareanu replaced Horoz in singles and fell to Kyle Dunn 7-5, 6-3 to put Valparaiso on the board.

For the weekend, the Cats did not lose any singles contests where they captured the first set. That aggressive play, along with the emerging confidence in the doubles pairings, bodes well for the future.

With four straight wins for the Cats going back to last weekend, Swan can feel his team’s momentum building with Big Ten competition looming.

“We continue to play better and better as the year has gone on,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good teams coming up, but we feel good about where our team is.”

Email: [email protected]