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Men’s Tennis: Northwestern looks to set mark for best start ever against NC State

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Strong Kirchheimer serves. Friday’s matchup against the Wolfpack will be a homecoming for the North Carolina native.

Strong Kirchheimer serves. Friday’s matchup against the Wolfpack will be a homecoming for the North Carolina native.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Strong Kirchheimer serves. Friday’s matchup against the Wolfpack will be a homecoming for the North Carolina native.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

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When Northwestern travels to North Carolina State on Friday, it will look to make history with the best start the program has ever seen.

The No. 7 Wildcats (9-0) moved up two spots in this week’s ITA rankings after recording three wins last weekend and will travel to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack (5-2) in their first road match since their season opener at Vanderbilt.

The team is aware of its chance to make its mark on the record book, but coach Arvid Swan said he’s more focused on the process of improving.

“Our focus is on being prepared for N.C. State and giving ourselves the best chance to win against a very good quality opponent away from Evanston,” Swan said.

Playing on the road in tennis means that players must adjust to different courts that may have variations in speed and bounciness. Swan said his team will be sure to arrive early in order to get sufficient practice time at N.C. State’s facility.

An additional wrinkle to the visit to Raleigh is that the Wolfpack only have four indoor courts, which promises a different flow to the match because all six singles players cannot begin at the same time.

Despite the unfamiliar conditions, the Cats and Wolfpack are no strangers. NU has played N.C. State every year since 2011.

For senior Strong Kirchheimer, a North Carolina native who recently moved up to No. 25 in the individual rankings, the trip to Raleigh will be a homecoming.

“It’ll be fun,” Kirchheimer said. “I grew up 10 minutes away from there and know all those guys pretty well so it should be a good time.”

The senior is 3-0 in his career against the Wolfpack, having last contributed to the Cats’ 6-1 victory a year ago with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 3 singles.

Setting records has become a familiar hobby for the Cats. Last season NU got off to a historic 14-1 start, which surpassed the 1988-1989 team’s 12-1 opening, before finishing with a program-record 26 wins. Despite the records, the year ended on a bit of a sour note for the Cats with a loss to Illinois in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and an upset loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

This year, senior Konrad Zieba is more worried about how the team finishes than how it starts. Nonetheless, he appreciates the opportunity to break the 1988-1989 team’s record 9-0 start.

“We have a good group of seniors, and we want to make it the best year, but I think we’re still striving to have a great end to our season,” Zieba said. “The Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament are the most important for us.”

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Twitter: @benjyapelbaum

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