Men’s Tennis: Big Ten season heats up for Northwestern


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

The Wildcats are looking to get back on track in the Big Ten after a conference season opening loss against Illinois. Sophomore Sam Shropshire doesn’t believe the team is in line for a letdown this weekend.

David Lee, Reporter

The grind never stops for No. 21 Northwestern as the Wildcats prepare to go up against two formidable conference opponents this weekend.

NU (8-5, 0-1 Big Ten) will travel to No. 27 Indiana on Friday before returning home for a doubleheader against Purdue and Western Illinois on Sunday.

The Cats have had mixed conference success in recent years. Last season, the team went 7-4 in Big Ten play, good for fourth in the conference. The year before, the Cats were 6-5, but both times, the team beat Indiana and Purdue.

Teams like the Hoosiers (9-3, 0-1) and the Boilermakers (4-6, 0-1) are exactly the type of mid-tier conference opponents NU is trying to leapfrog. All three teams will be looking for redemption after starting the conference season with a misstep against Big Ten leader Illinois (13-2, 3-0).

If NU is truly going to be the transcendent conference power it aspires to be, a pair of conference wins this weekend will go a long way.

The Cats certainly aren’t taking anything for granted.

“Every year is different,” sophomore Sam Shropshire said. “All three of these teams have gotten better since last year. We’ve gotten better (too), so we’ll see.”

Indiana will be NU’s biggest challenge this weekend. Although the Hoosiers don’t have any ranked singles players in their lineup, a balanced attack has the team looking like a tough out.

But the Cats are playing exceptional tennis of late, winning six of their last seven matches by a combined score of 33-12. Last weekend was an especially dominant affair, as NU was able to dismantle an overmatched Middle Tennessee State squad en route to a 6-1 victory.

“It’s about having the same performance we had against Middle Tennessee, where I thought we played a complete match,” coach Arvid Swan said. “That’s what’s important for these three matches, to play a complete match. You need to do that in the Big Ten. The teams are too good otherwise.”

A complete match involves playing effective doubles and singles throughout the entire lineup. Swan said the lineup is still fluid and will be constantly tinkered with as specific players rise and fall throughout the season.

Senior Alex Pasareanu has been pivotal to NU’s doubles attack this season. He has been used almost exclusively for doubles this year after playing extensive singles his first three years. Although Pasareanu has gone 57-36 in singles play during his collegiate career, he is gracefully handling his diminished playing time. His pairing with Shropshire has been effective, with the duo winning three of its last four contests.

“I think my doubles game has improved a tremendous amount,” Pasareanu said. “I actually started to enjoy it. Playing doubles is incredible. It’s a transition, and it’s good for the team that way.”

Western Illinois (0-8) seems like an afterthought in light of all the conference drama. The Leathernecks have yet to pick up more than one point in a game this season and have been shut out five times in eight contests.

An NU loss against the lowly squad would be one of the biggest upsets of the season. The Cats aren’t expecting a let down.

“This past weekend, winning the match was good physically for the weekend coming up,” Shropshire said. “Three pretty big matches. I think we’re ready.”

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