Men’s Tennis: Northwestern presented with opportunities for first quality wins


Daily file photo by David Lee

Ben Vandixhorn dives for a backhand. The junior will look to help the Wildcats to their first ranked win of the season.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

A poor start to the season has caused Northwestern to be left out of the top 50 in the first computer rankings of the season.

However, the Wildcats have two opportunities this weekend against good, but not dominant, teams to enhance their resume. Friday, NU (4-6) will face off against Vanderbilt (7-2) before traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to take on Harvard (9-2) on Sunday. The Crimson will go into the matchup with a No. 26 ranking, while the Commodores are ranked No. 35.

“The more matches we get under our belt the more experience we have,” junior Jason Seidman said. “Coming into Vanderbilt and Harvard, two ranked opponents, we know the level we have to perform at.”

Prior to this week, the rankings were determined by a voting system, but from now on a computer algorithm will do the rankings and the top 50 will be released weekly.

While the Cats’ below .500 record does not inspire confidence in their chances, all six of their losses have come against teams in the top 32. However, the team still lacks quality wins, as three of their victories have come against mid-major opponents and their lone major-conference conquest was over unranked Georgia Tech (3-6).

Many of NU’s losses have come in close matches, and coach Arvid Swan said his young team needs to perform better in the clutch.

“I like the direction we’re heading, we’ve just got to finish,” Swan said. “Part of that is playing freely and going for our shots at critical moments at the end of sets and the end of matches. That’s going to be the mental approach going into this weekend”

Last Sunday against Louisville, the Cats lost 4-2, but lost both matches that went to third sets. Wins in those sets by junior Ben Vandixhorn and freshman Nick Brookes could have flipped the result and given NU its first ranked win.

Tight losses in doubles also hurt the Cats against the Cardinals. While the pair of sophomore Chris Ephron and freshman Antonioni Fasano remained undefeated in their three completed matches since they joined forces at No. 3 doubles, the teams at No. 1 and No. 2 both lost tight 7-5 sets to lose the point.

In their second match last Sunday, the Cats rolled past IUPUI 4-0. However, to rise up into the rankings and give itself a shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament, NU will have to score wins over quality opponents.

“We’ve been playing some tight matches, but we’re not managing to break through in them,” Fasano said. “When we do it, we’re going to manage to keep it going … We were at the edge with N.C. State, we were at the edge this weekend with Louisville and I think we’re going to break it, and when we break it it’s going to be good.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benjyapelbaum