Men’s Tennis: Wildcats focusing on doubles play heading into NCAA Tournament


Zack Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Sophomore Sam Shropshire and senior Alex Pasareanu get fired up. The doubles pair will be vital to Northwestern’s success in the NCAA Tournament.

Khadrice Rollins, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

Northwestern is now in the final stretch of its season.

The No. 28 Wildcats (20-9, 8-3 Big Ten) start the NCAA Tournament on Friday in a rematch against No. 34 Harvard (19-7, 5-2 Ivy League) in Norman, Oklahoma.

Back in February, NU took down the Crimson in a thrilling 4-3 match in Evanston. The Cats were able to pick up the victory thanks to four singles’ wins, including the match-clinching point by sophomore Alp Horoz.

“It’s a great opportunity to play Harvard again,” sophomore Strong Kirchheimer said. “We know that this is a big rival for us, we love playing them and it’s a great opportunity.”

Although there may be a rivalry between NU and Harvard, the Crimson are taking on a very different Cats team than they played earlier in the year. NU is a long way from where it was at the start of the season, and the team can easily see the growth.

“It’s 10 times better,” Kirchheimer said. “The start of the season, we looked like a bunch of clowns out there. Our first match against NC State was awful, but we rebounded there and took out a top team, Vanderbilt. It’s gotten better every single time we stepped on the court.”

One of the factors behind the Cats’ improvement was the difficult schedule they had to navigate. NU faced 10 ranked opponents in its non-conference schedule and earned six wins against those teams. The Cats also had to play six ranked opponents in their 11 conference games.

Aside from tough competition, the Big Ten also offers tough weather environments. The Midwest provided an extra struggle in outdoor matches and prepared NU to play in almost any condition.

“That is an advantage of playing in the Midwest,” coach Arvid Swan said. “You learn how to play in all conditions, whether it’s inside, outside, different temperatures, different amounts of wind. We feel like we’re a team that can adapt to any condition at this point.”

Everything before this point has helped prepare the Cats for this moment, but there is still room for more preparation. One aspect of the game NU has been working on since the Big Ten Tournament, although it was one of its strongest points throughout the season, is doubles.

The ability to consistently win the doubles point has been a big part of the Cats’ success this year. If the team is able to improve its doubles performance even more and play its best in doubles competition, NU can beat any team in the nation, said sophomore Sam Shropshire.

“It’s pretty close,” he said. “We’ve been having some good practice, a lot of doubles practice, so I think we’re right there.”

The doubles play has looked good for the Cats, but the team’s drive also sticks out as a reason it can excel in the season’s final tournament.

“The thing that has stood out is that our team is excited for the opportunity,” Swan said. “The practices have been really good, a lot of good energy … The energy has been good and we’re playing well, so we feel good about where we’re at.”

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