Men’s Tennis: Freshmen seek success and experience at Big Ten indoor championships


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Junior Strong Kirchheimer hits a return. Kirchheimer, who made the semifinals of the Big Ten Singles Championships his freshman year, will step aside as Northwestern’s three freshmen compete in the 2015 edition of the tournament this weekend.

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

After making a collective splash in their first collegiate tournament, Northwestern’s trio of first-year talents will represent the school this weekend in Iowa at the Big Ten Men’s Singles and Doubles Championships.

Though new to the program, freshmen Michael Lorenzini, Jason Seidman and Ben Vandixhorn have made strong impressions thus far, impressing Coach Arvid Swan both in practice and in October’s Regional Championships.

“The freshmen have done a nice job in practice and they’re all putting in the time on the court,” Swan said after Regionals. “They’re a disciplined group. It’s just learning to play at the college level. That’s the step that they’re trying to transition to.”

That transition began rather successfully, as Swan later noted. Vandixhorn in particular dazzled in his first NCAA action.

He will enter the upcoming Big Ten tournament with momentum after playing his way into Regionals’ Round of 32 before falling to the eventual champion.

“It felt good to get a few (wins) under my belt as a Wildcat,” Vandixhorn said. “It was a good start.”

Seidman earned a spot in the main draw, notching three straight-set wins in the qualifying rounds. Lorenzini lost his only match, but “played a good match against a lineup player for Illinois,” Swan said.

Now after their first taste of competition at the college level, all eyes will be on the freshmen as they enter the conference tournament as NU’s sole representatives, despite other schools bringing players of all levels of experience.

The tournament begins Friday, with the opening day’s action devoted to doubles.

“It’s a good opportunity to play the teams that are in our conference and it’s a good format because there’s a focus on doubles,” Swan said.

Vandixhorn and Lorenzini, two Chicago-area natives, will partner up for the second time in their tennis careers, Lorenzini said.

The singles tournament runs from Saturday through Monday, with all three freshmen slated to play.

Expectations will surely be tempered, given their collective lack of exposure to Division I competition, but all three seem eager to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their talent against the Big Ten’s best.

“(My goal is) just to do as well as possible,” Lorenzini said. “This is my second fall tournament of my collegiate career, so just one match at a time.”

Yet, success is far from the only thing the Cats will look to emerge with.

As freshmen, experience is key. Swan is hopeful that Lorenzini, Seidman and Vandixhorn will walk away with a greater indication of what is expected at this next level.

“When you’re a freshman, every single match is important from a learning standpoint, so we’re just trying to get a lot of matches in and hopefully we have guys advancing deeper in the tournament,” the coach said.

And though the three will represent NU alone, they’ll look to utilize the lessons they have already learned thus far into their collegiate careers.

Last month, Swan noted the squad’s veterans have set the bar high for the freshmen, and all of the first-year players agreed that the mentorship has been crucial in their first few months with the team.

“(Swan and the upperclassmen) have been really encouraging,” Vandixhorn said. “They’re always just trying to help me get better. And I think that’s the main focus right now, just getting better.”

The indoor championships will provide the perfect stage for the trio to make that essential step forward, as well as provide a platform for each player to build upon his play at Regionals.

“I just definitely want to compete well,” Seidman said. “You know, give it all you got. (I) don’t want to have any regrets and just (want to) play good tennis.”

Correction: A previous version of this story was accompanied by the wrong photo. The Daily regrets the error.

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