Men’s Tennis: Wildcats looking to sweep two conference rivals this weekend

Khadrice Rollins, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

Northwestern will head to Michigan this weekend for back-to-back matches with Michigan and Michigan State.

The No. 24 Wildcats (14-7, 3-2 Big Ten) are coming in on a bit of a hot streak, as they are currently riding a two-game winning streak and have claimed victories in eight of their last 10 contests.

First up for NU will be Michigan State (11-10, 2-2). The Spartans don’t have as much momentum right now, as they have alternated losses and wins in their last eight matches, with the most recent being a win over No. 54 Iowa.

This is the first time this year NU goes up against Michigan State, but they did play each other last season. In the match last year, the Cats walked away with a 6-1 victory, but it was not an easy win.

Three of the six singles matches in last year’s matchup went the maximum three sets, with NU claiming victories in all of them. Although the Cats defeated the Spartans last year, and the teams’ records indicate NU should walk away with the win, players are not taking Michigan State lightly.

“They are very good teams,” sophomore Strong Kirchheimer said. “I know Michigan State gave us a very tough match last year, and so did Michigan.”

After the match with the Spartans, the Cats will leave the confines of East Lansing to travel to Ann Arbor for a battle with Michigan (3-12, 0-4).

The Wolverines are coming into the match in the midst of a seven-game losing streak that has dropped them to last in the conference. And although it appears this should be a cakewalk for NU, Michigan does have experience knocking off ranked opponents. The Wolverines’ last win was at home against Memphis, who was ranked No. 22 at the time.

“Going into Michigan State and Michigan, they are two quality teams,” sophomore Sam Shropshire said. “And throughout their lineups they have great players, so everybody on the team is going to have to do their job well if we want to get the win.”

Michigan proved to be a tough test for the Cats last season. Similar to Michigan State, NU came up with a 6-1 win in the match, but it did not come smoothly. Just like the match with the Spartans last season, three of the six singles matches went three sets, but the Cats picked up only a point in two of those.

The Wolverines, however, are in a very different place this season compared to last season. A year ago when NU took on Michigan, they were slight underdogs. The Cats were No. 37 in the nation at the time while the Wolverines were No. 43. During Michigan’s current losing streak, the team has failed to get more than one point in four of the seven matches.

Despite everything pointing in NU’s favor going into this weekend, the team is not underestimating the competition. The players are focused not only because any team can win on any given day, but also because conference wins over these two opponents would mean a lot.

“Any time you get a chance to play either of those two teams, it’s something you get up for,” Kirchheimer said. “Because they are two well known Big Ten schools and any time you get an opportunity to beat Michigan or Michigan State, it’s a wonderful day.”

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