Men’s Tennis: Northwestern looks for success in matches against Louisville, IUPUI


Daily file photo by David Lee

Chris Ephron (right) and Antonioni Fasano (left) attack the net. The duo teamed up for the first time last weekend against Oklahoma State.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

After facing four ranked teams in eight matches, Northwestern’s schedule will get a little easier the next two weeks. But with the matches appearing more even on paper, the pressure to come out with wins continues to rise.

The Wildcats (3-5) will play a doubleheader Sunday against Louisville (7-3) and IUPUI (2-4). Although the Cardinals have a better record than NU, they have played an easier schedule with only two matches against ranked opponents.

Last season, the Cats defeated Louisville 4-2, but NU will bring a vastly different lineup into this matchup. The Cats lost their top three singles players from a year ago and this year’s top three has primarily featured two freshmen and one sophomore.

At the beginning of the season, freshman Antonioni Fasano held down the No. 1 singles spot, but in the team’s last two matches, sophomore Dominik Stary has flipped from the No. 2 spot to No. 1. Stary, however, downplayed the significance of his ascent.

“On our team, it doesn’t really matter who is playing on the top of the lineup,” Stary said. “Coaches just decide depending on the matchups.”

So far, NU has struggled to earn wins at the top of the lineup against the other teams’ best players. Fasano was 1-4 in the top slot, and last weekend Stary lost to No. 28 Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame before losing the team’s only set in the Cats’ dominant team win over Chicago State.

NU also has only one win so far at No. 2 singles. The Cats’ production has come from lower in the lineup, where the cast is similar to how it was last year.

Another place NU is looking to gain points is in doubles play after coach Arvid Swan changed doubles pairings last weekend. Freshman Nick Brookes is now paired with junior Michael Lorenzini. Lorenzini’s old partner, sophomore Chris Ephron, played with Fasano.

“We just tried it out, changed it a little bit to see how it works, and it seems like it’s been working pretty well,” Ephron said. “(We) just tried to spark something new and see how the new partnership goes.”

Those new pairings found success and went 2-1 in matches against tough competition in No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 22 Notre Dame.

During the singles portion of those matches, the Cats played numerous close ones but were often unable to close out tight sets. Stary said the no-advantage rule of college tennis causes many matches to come down to a handful of high leverage points.

“So far, the matches always came up to deuce points and a few points that made a huge difference,” Stary said “Although, on paper, the results might seem pretty straightforward … at the end of the day it really wasn’t only one-sided matches.”

IUPUI has struggled so far, but the Louisville match looks to be a prime opportunity for the Cats to pick up a quality win.

Ephron said the team is on the precipice of breaking through and that it needs a small boost to pull out tighter matches.

“Definitely a disappointing couple losses against Oklahoma State and Notre Dame, but they were close matches,” Ephron said. “We’re playing well, (we) just got to get a little bit extra and hopefully these close matches will start being wins.”

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