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Men’s Tennis: Northwestern splits competitive road matches

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Strong Kirchheimer completes a swing. The senior won his 100th career singles match in the Wildcats’ weekend split.

Strong Kirchheimer completes a swing. The senior won his 100th career singles match in the Wildcats’ weekend split.

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Strong Kirchheimer completes a swing. The senior won his 100th career singles match in the Wildcats’ weekend split.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

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Men’s Tennis


Northwestern split a pair of tough road matches this weekend as it continues to search for a consistent winning formula in Big Ten play.

The No. 19 Wildcats (15-7, 3-2 Big Ten) began their weekend with a 4-2 loss to Wisconsin (13-3, 4-1) on Friday, then rebounded with a win by an identical score against Minnesota (14-5, 3-2) on Sunday. A major difference between the matches was the blistering start against the Golden Gophers, when the Cats dominated the doubles points with 6-1 and 6-2 wins that coach Arvid Swan said gave the team confidence in singles.

“The doubles was exceptionally good against Minnesota,” Swan said. “So that gave us good momentum heading into singles and we won five of six first sets so guys did a really good job of starting strong in singles.”

By contrast, NU lost the doubles point against Wisconsin with losses at Nos. 2 and 3, both by 6-4 scores. From there, the Cats were unable to muster the firepower to recover from the 1-0 deficit as they lost three matches in straight sets.

During the match, the Cats’ No. 1 singles player, senior Strong Kirchheimer, recorded his 100th career singles victory with a 6-4, 6-4 win. Kirchheimer, the No. 41 ranked player in the country, became just the fifth NU player to reach the milestone and the first of the 21st century.

In its first outdoor match of the season Sunday against Minnesota, NU got off to an exceptional start and took a 3-0 lead after doubles and dominant straight-set wins at Nos. 4 and 5 singles from sophomores Ben Vandixhorn and Jason Seidman, respectively. Seidman has been in a groove recently and is on a five match winning streak and has not lost in his last eight due to unfinished matches.

However, after grabbing that early lead, the match took a turn for the Cats. Kirchheimer lost and freshman Brenden Volk’s third set comeback came up short at No. 6 singles, a spot where the Cats have struggled to find wins during senior Sam Shropshire’s recent absence.

Leading 3-2 and needing one more victory to clinch, senior Konrad Zieba, at No. 2, and freshman Dominik Stary, at No. 3, both lost tight second sets and went into third sets that played out concurrently.

The hero of the day turned out to be Zieba, who lost a 5-3 third set lead before fending off three match points and winning a dramatic tiebreaker 9-7.

“I just competed harder and stayed in it mentally and I didn’t let deuce games or close points change the momentum,” Zieba said. “It was an up and down match but I think I had that level-headed mentality and I didn’t let it affect me too much.”

Both teams the Cats played this weekend had similar rankings in the low 30s, but NU was able to get off to a good start and gain confidence in part due to energetic doubles play against Minnesota. That point relieves stress and opens more paths to victory in singles, where the Cats have been more up-and-down than they were during their dominant start to the season.

“I thought (Sunday) was a lot better and we brought a lot more energy in doubles,” Zieba said. “That’s one thing that we always stress so that’s a big improvement from Wisconsin. We’ll look to continue to do that next weekend.”

Email: Benjaminapelbaum2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @benjyapelbaum

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