Men’s Tennis: Northwestern falls to Wisconsin in second round of Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Sam Shropshire and Konrad Zieba talk between points. The seniors and the Wildcats struggled in the Big Ten Tournament, falling in the quarterfinals.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

The Wildcats’ Big Ten Tournament ended earlier than they would have liked.

After sweeping past Michigan State (11-18, 0-11 Big Ten) 4-0 Thursday, No. 23 Northwestern (21-10, 7-4) lost to Wisconsin (17-7, 7-4) on Friday, 4-2, for the second time this season.

“We fought hard, but they just came out on top this time,” sophomore Ben Vandixhorn said. “It’s tough to say what we can do different, it was just tough how it ended up.”

Before the match, the Cats thought they would be able to improve on their previous road loss to the Badgers that was played without their No. 3 singles player, senior Sam Shropshire. However, that was not to be as the No. 4 seed Wisconsin defeated NU by the same score as in March’s meeting.

The Badgers took control of the match early by notching dominant wins at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles to clinch the point and take a 1-0 lead.

“We definitely could have improved our doubles,” senior Konrad Zieba said. “We always talk about it, but that’s just how important doubles is.”

Singles play began promisingly for the Cats as they won four of six first sets, enough to complete the comeback if they could continue their strong starts.

No. 37 Strong Kirchheimer and Zieba, the No. 71 player in the country, secured straight-set wins at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, to give NU a 2-1 lead. Zieba grabbed a 6-3, 6-2 win over Josef Dodridge after losing to Wisconsin’s No. 2 in their regular season match nearly one month before.

The match was evened at two when Shropshire fell, leaving third sets at courts 4-6 to decide the eventual outcome.

The turning point of the match came when freshman Dominik Starý, winner of his last seven matches, fell 7-4 in a critical third set tiebreaker. Starý rolled to a 6-0 first set, but then lost two tight sets, leaving the Cats down 3-2.

That match was critical because as the tiebreaker played out, Vandixhorn was falling behind in his third set and lost 6-1.

“Both (Dominik) and I’s match came down to a few points,” Vandixhorn said. “I probably should have closed it out in two sets, but the kid was able to kind of hang in there.”

Fellow sophomore Jason Seidman led 4-3 in his third set, but Vandixhorn’s loss secured defeat for NU.

The loss denied the Cats their goal of winning a Big Ten Tournament, although that would have been particularly tough with eventual champions Ohio State, the No. 2 team in the country, waiting in the next round.

NU will now turn to the NCAA Tournament to wrap up its season. Its No. 23 ranking will likely hold steady or fall a few spots, meaning the Cats will travel for postseason play and will be an underdog to advance past the regional round.

The Cats have fallen in the second round in each of the last two years, and though NU has underperformed late in the season and in the Big Ten Tournament, it still believes it has the talent to pull an upset.

“We have been top-25 all year, been as high as (No.) 7 in the country. We are one of the best teams in the country,” coach Arvid Swan said. “(We are) excited to get into the postseason and make the final site.”

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