Men’s Tennis: Northwestern heads into Big Ten Tournament hopeful for strong play


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Sam Shropshire follows through. The senior and the Wildcats are looking for a Big Ten Tournament title this week.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

If Northwestern’s star seniors want a Big Ten title before they graduate, they’ll have to do it now.

The No. 23 Wildcats (20-9, 7-4 Big Ten) will kick off the conference tournament Thursday in West Lafayette, Indiana as the No. 5 seed, taking on 12th-seeded Michigan State (11-17, 0-11). If NU gets past the bottom-seeded Spartans, it will face off against Wisconsin on Friday in the quarterfinals, with a possible matchup looming with No. 2 Ohio State the next day.

No matter what teams the Cats have to beat through to get there, senior Sam Shropshire is eager for a chance at a title.

“Our goal is still the same. We’re still trying to win a Big Ten title,” Shropshire said. “The regular season is over so now our last chance is to do it in the tournament.”

The shift to single-elimination play will ratchet up the pressure on the team as one loss in the Big Ten Tournament and in the subsequent NCAA Tournament would end the team’s season.

To survive and advance, coach Arvid Swan said the team will need to pick up its play in the doubles point.

“A big focus has been on doubles this week,” Swan said. “I feel like if we win the doubles point we have such a great opportunity against any team we play.”

The Cats will also turn to the hardened senior trio of Shropshire, Konrad Zieba and Strong Kirchheimer, who each have started all four years in Evanston. Those players are positioned at the top three singles spots, and their experience will be vital during the upcoming important matches.

One new aspect of the Big Ten Tournament is that each matchup will be a repeat for NU after it played each conference foe once during the regular season.

“The coaches will have the scouting reports, and all the players will remember who they played,” Shropshire said. “We’ll be able to make small adjustments and try to do better in the future than we did in the past.”

NU swept Michigan State relatively convincingly on the road two weeks ago, but a rematch with Wisconsin would be a chance for the Cats to avenge an earlier defeat.

NU lost to the Badgers 4-2 earlier in the season, but that was with Shropshire out of the lineup. The presence of the No. 3 singles player will alter both the singles and doubles lineups and allow those beneath him in the singles order to slide down a spot to face weaker opponents.

Though the Cats have not been a top Big Ten team during the regular season, if they come out with reinvigorated doubles play and a healthier lineup, they still have a chance to make noise in the conference tournament.

“We’re motivated going into the Big Ten Tournament,” Zieba said. “We know it’s pretty much a fresh start to the season. We’re confident we can do well.”

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