Men’s Tennis: Northwestern crushes Vanderbilt, tripped up by Harvard late


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Dominik Stary hits a shot. He upset a highly ranked Harvard player this weekend.

Patrick Andres, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

Was it Northwestern’s first shutout of the season? No, that took place back on Jan. 19 against IUPUI. Was it the Wildcats’ first victory this year over a major conference foe? No, NU had turned that trick as well, beating Louisville 4-1 on Jan. 31 and Kentucky 4-2 a week later.

Still, the Cats’ 7-0 win over Vanderbilt marked a significant milestone in their 2020 season. The victory served as a confidence booster for NU (6-4) and marked its first win of the new decade over a team ranked above it in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll.

“It was a really good match,” coach Arvid Swan said. “Vanderbilt year in and year out is an excellent team. I was really pleased with our effort.”

Eight of the nine matches Friday between the Cats and Commodores were played to completion, marking the first time NU finished all six of its singles matches since the season opener against Illinois State. Not since Feb. 17, 2019 against Ball State had the Cats picked up the doubles point and won every singles match outright — NU had gone a calendar year without beating a team 7-0.

“It was very helpful, completing those matches,” Swan said, noting the importance of finishing matches that had gone to three sets. “Winning in three sets definitely gives our guys a lot of confidence going forward.”

The usual suspects showed up and showed out against Vanderbilt, with sophomore Steven Forman proving especially formidable with a 6-2 doubles win in tandem with freshman Natan Spear followed by a straight-set win over Commodore senior Billy Rowe. Sophomore Simen Bratholm and junior Nick Brookes were also victorious two times over, with Brookes rallying from an early hole to top Vanderbilt junior Max Freeman 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

Two days later, the Cats came within an eyelash of a seismic upset in Cambridge, Massachusetts, succumbing 4-3 to No. 14 Harvard and falling just short of ending the Crimson’s 8-game winning streak against non-conference foes in regular season play.

The match was a taut affair that saw neither team lead by more than one point from the first to last ball served. NU seniors Chris Ephron and Dominik Stary took the first doubles match before Harvard squeezed out a pair of 7-6 wins, giving the Crimson a temporary lead before Bratholm and sophomore Trice Pickens delivered what Swan termed an “excellent” response in the form of straight-set victories that put the Cats ahead 2-1.

The Crimson responded with two straight-set wins of their own to go up 3-2 before Stary upset nationally ranked Harvard freshman Ronan Jachuck. The sixth and final singles tilt decided the match, with Crimson sophomore Brian Shi shutting out Forman in the tiebreaker of the final set to pull out a narrow 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 victory.

“We certainly wanted to win and had opportunities to do so,” Swan said of NU’s tough loss. “It’s about continuing to develop as a team and putting ourselves in a position to win. I’m proud of the way in which we competed.”

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