Men’s Tennis: Northwestern falls short at National Indoor Championships


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Strong Kirchheimer readies a backhand. The senior was unable to lift Northwestern over elite competition this weekend.

Aidan Markey, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

Coming into the weekend, Northwestern appeared poised to make a run at a championship against some of the nation’s best programs. Three losses later, the team knows it still has room for improvement.

The No. 7 Wildcats (10-3) dropped their trio of matches at the ITA National Indoor Championships this weekend, marking their longest losing streak since a three-match skid in the early weeks of the 2015 season. NU fell to No. 12 Oklahoma State, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 16 Mississippi State during its winless weekend.

Coach Arvid Swan said the team is grateful to have had the opportunity to compete in the renowned event.

“It was a great opportunity for our guys to be able to play three of the best 16 teams in the country,” Swan said. “We’re disappointed to have not won all or one of them, but the experience was very good.”

The Cats faced the Cowboys (8-3) to begin the event Friday. NU dropped the doubles point at the start of the match, the first time it had done so this season. Though the Cats fought back to trail just 3-2, an Oklahoma State victory at No. 1 singles over senior Strong Kirchheimer dealt the Cats their first loss of the season. Senior Konrad Zieba and sophomore Jason Seidman tallied wins in the defeat.

Seidman said the Cats have to be in sync as a team to notch victories over such strong competition.

“We always put up a fight whether or not we are playing well,” Seidman said. “Overall, though, each and every guy has to be on their game in order to win a match against a top quality opponent.”

Saturday’s contest with the Sooners (9-2) proved just as competitive. NU dropped the doubles point for the second consecutive match, but again clawed its way back after singles victories from Zieba, sophomore Ben Vandixhorn and Kirchheimer, who ranks No. 26 nationally.

With the score locked at 3-3, the decision came down to Seidman’s match at No. 6. But in a third set battle, he fell in a tiebreak, and the Cats’ record dropped to 0-2 for the weekend.

Seidman said though the close loss might sting, the team is confident it will learn from the situation.

“Next time we’re in that type of situation, we’ll have more experience,” Seidman said. “And we know we’ll be in that situation again.”

The weekend trend of close, gritty matches continued Sunday against the Bulldogs (5-3).

NU jumped out to an early lead thanks to doubles wins from Vandixhorn and freshman Chris Ephron, as well as Kirchheimer and freshman Dominik Stary. After a pair of singles wins, the Cats led 3-1, and stood on the cusp of leaving Charlottesville with a win. But a forceful Mississippi State run foiled NU’s hopes, and the team dropped its third straight match 4-3.

Ephron said though the losses were disappointing, the Cats can use them to their advantage.

“Moving forward, we can learn, and we now know the things to focus on,” Ephron said. “Hopefully by the end of the year, those losses become wins.”

Following their first defeat of the 2016-17 campaign, NU needs to recover before the losses compound with a matchup against Notre Dame and a rematch with Oklahoma State on the horizon.

Swan said though the Cats are confident after gauging their talents against the nation’s best teams, the results indicate NU has a ways to go.

“We can play with the best teams in the country, it’s no question,” Swan said. “But we have some things we need to learn and improve based on this experience.”

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