Men’s Tennis: Northwestern’s win streak up to eight after 3-0 weekend


Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Sam Shropshire takes a forehand. The junior has helped Northwestern get off to its best start since the 1988-89 season.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

After a perfect weekend, Northwestern’s eight-game winning streak has the team rewriting school record books.

The Wildcats (11-1) are off to the program’s best start since the 1988-89 season thanks to knocking off No. 30 North Carolina State, 6-1, on Friday and then beating No. 32 Vanderbilt, 4-3, and UIC, 4-0, on Sunday. The NC State and UIC matches were comfortable victories, but there was nothing easy about the Vanderbilt match, which came down to a final set at No. 3 singles between NU junior Strong Kirchheimer and Vanderbilt’s Baker Newman.

With the teams tied at 3 points apiece, Kirchheimer and Newman dueled for the final point. Despite Newman breaking Kirchheimer’s serve and winning the second set, Kirchheimer secured a victory for the Cats by winning the third and taking the match, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.

“I was pretty irritated that I let it get out of hand and go to a third; that really shouldn’t have happened,” Kirchheimer said. “I didn’t do my best job. I got down 2-0 in the third, and then I got myself refocused and was a little bit better focused on finding the ball and just playing clean tennis.”

That clean tennis clinched NU’s seventh consecutive victory against top-60 competition, but it was the first time in that stretch the Cats needed to come back after dropping the doubles point.

Vanderbilt won two out of three doubles matches, but NU responded with the first three wins in singles play, as senior Fedor Baev joined juniors Konrad Zieba and Sam Shropshire in cruising to two-set victories.

“It was good to see guys competing after losing a doubles point,” coach Arvid Swan said. “It was a good team effort, and just coming back after losing the doubles point against a such a good, quality team shows a lot of heart.”

After Baev, Zieba and Shropshire won their matches, Vanderbilt picked up two more points at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, as Alex Ross defeated Cats freshman Ben Vandixhorn 6-4, 6-4, while Kris Yee defeated NU junior Alp Horoz 6-2, 6-4.

Even with the score tied 3-3 and the possibility the Cats would pick up their second loss of the year, Swan said he was never worried Kirchheimer might lose.

“He’s a kid that puts in so much hard work, so we certainly are happy to have him to win or lose a match,” Swan said. “He’s had a great record throughout his career and obviously started off really strong. We feel good having Strong as the last man on the court.”

NU’s other victories over the weekend were considerably less intense.

Against the Wolfpack on Friday, the Cats secured victory early by jumping ahead 4-0 when Vandixhorn won a second set tiebreak as the finishing touch on a 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) victory, following up identical 6-2, 6-3 victories by Baev and Kirchheimer. Zieba and Horoz added two more points, while Shropshire lost at No. 2 singles for NC State’s sole point in the 6-1 blowout.

Against UIC, Zieba, Baev and senior Mihir Kumar picked up victories in singles after NU secured the doubles point, pushing the Cats to their best start to a season in 27 years.

“The team’s been playing really well, so you get confidence from that,” Kumar said. “We supported each other really well, and that’s kind of what you want in college tennis.”

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