Men’s Tennis: Northwestern fighting hard in toughest stretch of its season


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Strong Kirchheimer pumps his fist. The junior is ranked No. 55 in the nation heading into this weekend’s matches.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

Northwestern began a stretch of playing some of the nation’s best teams last weekend, and the schedule won’t be doing the Wildcats any favors anytime soon.

Coming off a win over No. 23 Tulsa and a loss to No. 7 Illinois last weekend, No. 21 Northwestern will face more ranked competition. For junior and No. 1 singles player Konrad Zieba, however, it’s just business as usual.

“Our schedule is filled with top teams, so I feel like having the same mindset is the right thing to do,” Zieba said.

The next top teams NU will play are No. 35 Notre Dame, who visit Evanston on Friday, and No. 24 Duke, who host the Cats on Sunday.

NU will be looking for redemption after suffering losses to both squads last season. This time the Cats will have Zieba, who didn’t play in either of the losses last year and came into the year unranked but is now the No. 16 player in the country.

“I’ve just been competing hard and having the right mental approach and maintaining my composure during the match,” Zieba said.

Zieba isn’t the only Wildcat to rise up the rankings in the past year. Junior Sam Shropshire, who was unranked last year when the Cats played both Notre Dame and Duke, is now ranked No. 50. Teammate and fellow junior Strong Kirchheimer, who was ranked No. 108 in last year’s matches, is currently ranked No. 55.

In addition to these season-to-season improvements, coach Arvid Swan has noted the Cats’ progression throughout this season.

“We’re coming together as a team,” Swan said. “Our practice habits are very good, and we’ve competed well in every spot. We’re very motivated to continue to get better.”

The team will have to rely on those practice habits throughout the non-conference schedule because the competition does not get any easier. The matches against Notre Dame and Duke are just the third and fourth in a series of nine straight matches the Cats will play against teams currently ranked in the top-60.

Although NU beat Tulsa 4-1 in the first of those matches, the second resulted in a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Illinois. Despite the loss being the Cats’ first of the season, Shropshire, NU’s No. 2 singles player, said he isn’t worried about the team’s ability to bounce back.

“We lost Saturday and took Sunday off, but Monday we were right back at it practicing,” Shropshire said. “Rebounding won’t be a big problem. It won’t affect us that much.”

After taking on three top-70 players against the Illini, the Cats will face more top players this weekend, including No. 37 Quentin Monaghan from Notre Dame and No. 12 Nicolas Alvarez from Duke.

Fortunately for NU, it went up against both players last year, and Swan said he believes this will help the team prepare for this weekend’s matches.

“We know those teams pretty well, and we play them pretty much every year,” Swan said. “They’re really well-coached teams, they’re disciplined teams. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

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