Men’s Tennis: Wildcats recover from rocky start, surge ahead in Big Ten

Khadrice Rollins, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

It was an eventful Spring Break for Northwestern, as the team split its four matches over the week.

The No. 24 Wildcats (14-7, 3-2 Big Ten) started off shaky when they dropped their match March 25 at Rice (11-11, 0-2 C-USA), 4-1. The loss ended NU’s six-game winning streak, and it was the first time since Feb. 20 the team was defeated. Freshman Logan Staggs picked up the Cats’ only point of the match, winning in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. The doubles pairing of junior Fedor Baev and sophomore Strong Kirchheimer also won its match, 6-2, but it meant nothing as NU came up short in the other two doubles contests.

On March 27, the team lost once again, this time 5-2 to No. 11 Ohio State (16-7, 4-1 Big Ten). Sophomores Sam Shropshire and Konrad Zieba were bright spots for the Cats, as both won their matches, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) and 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5) respectively. Baev kept his match close, but lost a heartbreaker, 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (5-7), 1-0 (10-7). This was the first time NU lost back-to-back contests since it fell to Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Duke consecutively, with the last defeat coming Feb. 1.

The tide changed for NU on March 29 when the team hosted No. 50 Penn State (9-12, 1-4 Big Ten) and IUPUI (7-13, 3-0 Summit League). The Cats walked away with a 7-0 victory in each match as they returned to their winning ways.

Against Penn State, the doubles pairings of Shropshire and senior Alex Pasareanu and Baev and Kirchheimer grabbed NU’s first point of the match with 8-3 and 8-4 triumphs. Shropshire, Kirchheimer, Staggs and sophomore Alp Horoz all won their singles matches in straight sets. Zieba won his match 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 while Baev dropped his first set and had to fight back to secure his point for NU, but was successful in coming up with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

In the match with IUPUI, NU coasted to an easy victory. Baev and Kirchheimer won their doubles match 6-0 and Horoz and junior Mihir Kumar won 6-3 to earn the Cats the first point of the match. After that, Shropshire, Kirchheimer, Zieba, Staggs, Baev and Horoz all won in straight sets. Staggs had the most impressive victory of the bunch, as he did not allow his opponent to win a single game and won his match 6-0, 6-0. Horoz and Kirchheimer were also impressive in their victories as they won 6-0, 6-1 and 6-0, 6-2 respectively.

The wins on Sunday were perfect for NU as they allowed the team to head into a four-day break on a positive note. The Cats now sit at fourth in the Big Ten with six conference games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament. The team has one game left against a conference foe currently ranked higher in the standings, so Sunday could mark the start of another long winning streak for NU.

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