Men’s Tennis: Kirchheimer and freshmen find success at ITA Midwest Regionals


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Sam Shropshire lunges to return a ball. The junior didn’t play his best at the ITA Midwest Regional Championships and was bounced in the second round.

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

Junior Strong Kirchheimer is known for his competitive edge on the court.

It came as no surprise to his team, then, when he spearheaded a strong collective performance by the Wildcats at the ITA Midwest Regional Championships this past week. Numerous members of the team found success over the course of the tournament at Notre Dame, but it was Kirchheimer’s appearance in the singles semifinal that stuck out for NU.

“I think he competed like he usually does,” coach Arvid Swan said. “He’s a great competitor … In the semifinal matchup, he put himself in a position to win, so overall I was pleased with his tournament. (He) works hard so it’s nice to see (a) positive performance from him.”

Kirchheimer, seeded eighth, opened strong with three commanding victories over unranked opponents before upsetting No. 4 Aron Hiltzik of Illinois in straight sets to earn a spot in the semifinals.

The junior entered the tournament with a better mindset than he did weeks earlier at the All-Americans, where he failed to qualify for the main draw.

“I was a lot better mentally,” he said. “I didn’t let matches go on longer than I needed to. I did a better job taking balls early instead of playing a lot of defense.”

Kirchheimer eventually lost to the second seed, Ohio State’s Chris Diaz, in two close sets. But even after a hard-fought match and an otherwise successful run in the singles bracket, Kirchheimer was left unsatisfied.

“I was pretty disappointed with (the last match),” he said. “I had my opportunities there and that would have been a really good one to get because he’s a tough player.”

Although Kirchheimer’s success marked an improvement over his disappointing campaign at the All-Americans, junior teammate Sam Shropshire — who was the runner-up in the latter tournament’s consolation bracket — was the NU star who suffered an early exit.

Shropshire, seeded third, dropped his second-round matchup in three sets to Julian Childers, an unseeded and unranked opponent. Though he recognized he could have played better, Shropshire ultimately decided there was nothing he would do differently.

“It was just a rough day in general,” Shropshire said. “Nothing too specific that I need to change.”

Swan, too, remained unmoved by his superstar’s less-than-ideal finish.

Shropshire, ranked 34th nationally, was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection last year. After an offseason to improve, Swan remains confident that Shropshire is again headed for success, regardless of his recent performance.

“There’s no concern with Sam,” Swan said. “The guy’s a proven player. (He) had a tremendous year last year and he’ll have a tremendous year this year, so no concern at all.”

Outside of NU’s top-two singles players, other Cats enjoyed success. Senior Fedor Baev, freshman Ben Vandixhorn and junior Alp Horoz all made it to the round of 32.

Vandixhorn’s success in his first collegiate tournament stands out, especially considering his only loss came against Ohio State’s Herkko Pollanen, the eventual champion.

NU’s other freshmen, Michael Lorenzini and Jason Seidman, also took a big step forward according to their coach.

“I think it was a good first step for all three guys,” Swan said.

With Regionals in the rearview window, the Cats will next be represented by the freshman trio in the Big Ten Singles and Doubles Championships, which begin Nov. 6 in Iowa.

Though they will be the only three participating, Swan said, the entire squad is looking ahead in preparation for the upcoming season.

“We just have to get better every day,” Kirchheimer said, “Everything was pretty good (at Regionals). For the freshmen, it was their first college tournament so it was nice to see some of them go and pick up some wins … and hopefully they’ll continue that at the Big Tens.”

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