Men’s Tennis: Northwestern keys in on doubles ahead of weekend road trip
April 13, 2017
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Worth just one point collectively, the doubles point might seem relatively insignificant.
Coach Arvid Swan knows better, however. And with No. 21 Northwestern (17-7, 5-2 Big Ten) set to battle Michigan State (10-13, 0-7) and No. 14 Michigan (16-4, 6-1) this weekend on the road, that doubles point will be among the Wildcats’ top points of focus.
“It’s work to win against a Big Ten team,” Swan said. “Doubles has been a little up and down. We’ve got to make it more consistent.”
Most recently, NU watched the point slip from its fingers against Iowa on Sunday. Sophomore Michael Lorenzini and freshman Chris Ephron dropped their doubles match at No. 3 against the Hawkeyes, and seniors Sam Shropshire and Konrad Zieba collapsed after jumping out to a 5-0 lead, losing seven straight games.
On the final court, senior Strong Kirchheimer and freshman Dominik Stary led 5-4 when their match was called.
The Cats then notched three swift wins in singles play, but it took sophomore Jason Seidman nearly another hour to score the decisive 7-6, 7-6 victory at No. 6. In the meantime, Iowa had tied the score at 3, putting NU on the brink of a collapse.
With the doubles point, the Cats would have cruised to a 4-1 victory against a Big Ten team with only one conference victory.
“Every team in the Big Ten is incredibly tough,” Shropshire said. “There’s no easy match.”
If there were an easy match, Michigan State is the closest thing to it. NU swept the perennial conference bottom-feeder — who is without a Big Ten win this season — last year.
But following the Iowa scare, NU knows it has to come out strong regardless of the scouting report. For Swan, that starts at doubles.
Shropshire’s return promises to give the team a boost, especially on the heels of his dominant singles win at No. 3 against Iowa. But his absence forced the team to tweak its doubles lineup, and his return has again shaken things up as the Cats look to find a rhythm in doubles play.
Entering the season’s homestretch, Swan said he’s looking to get “those guys back comfortable playing again.”
Against Michigan, currently second in the conference, NU will need to be in a groove. Swan’s alma mater has just one loss in league play thus far, though the Cats believe they can hand the Wolverines their second.
And to do so, they’ll look to kick things off with a big win in the doubles slate.
“If we win a doubles point, we can beat anyone in the country,” Swan said. “To try to get four (singles wins) against us is not easy.”