Men’s Tennis: Northwestern picks up pair of dominant wins to capture ITA regional
January 30, 2017
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The undefeated Wildcats cruised through a pair of wins and qualified for their first-ever ITA National Indoor Championship this weekend.
No. 10 Northwestern (6-0) hosted three other teams at its regional and turned in two complete performances, recording 4-0 wins over Memphis (2-2) on Saturday and Georgia Tech (2-2) in Sunday’s final.
“It’s been a big goal for us for a number of years, so we’re thrilled for the opportunity to play at National Indoors,” coach Arvid Swan said. “I thought we put together two solid matches against really good teams, so for us it’s an opportunity to play the best teams in the country.”
Both matches saw impressive individual performances, resulting in NU losing just three cumulative singles and doubles sets during the weekend.
The match against Memphis began with NU quickly capturing the doubles point, as it has in all six of its matches this season. The Cats won straight-set matches at No. 3, 5 and 6 singles and led on the three remaining courts when the match was called.
Georgia Tech received votes in last week’s ITA poll and defeated No. 18 Stanford in its first match of the weekend, but even so it did not fare much better than Memphis against NU in the final.
Though the Cats eventually cruised past Georgia Tech, they saw drama during doubles play with split results on the first and third courts. But at No. 2, senior Strong Kirchheimer secured the point with a blistering forehand winner on a service return to clinch a 6-4 win.
The No. 26 Kirchheimer also played well at first singles against No. 9 Christopher Eubanks. Kirchheimer battled the big-server hard in a contested first set, ultimately winning in a tiebreaker 8-6. However, he barely began the second set before dominant wins at No. 2 through 4 clinched the win.
“I think our entire team has really progressed from our first match,” senior and No. 2 singles player Konrad Zieba said. “Everyone is playing hard together, and it’s that consistency that we’re trying to maintain.”
Although the Cats are undefeated thus far, the season began with a nail-biting 4-3 road win against unranked Vanderbilt. But after that, NU defeated then-No. 7 TCU and has rolled since, sweeping its last three matches.
Senior Sam Shropshire admitted he started the season slow with a three-set loss against Vanderbilt. In the matches over the weekend however, Shropshire dominated consistently at No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles. He and the team are in full form and now have an opportunity to make a splash at the ITA Indoor Championship starting Feb. 17.
“We’ve been playing better and better,” Shropshire said. “At the beginning of the year, we went down to Vanderbilt, and it was a tough match. Not everybody played great including myself, so definitely this weekend it was good to get two comprehensive wins.”