After having played against four ranked teams in their last six matches, Northwestern Men’s Tennis (4-6) entered Combe Tennis Center badly in need of wins to pull to within .500 and to increase motivation for a young, inexperienced, but talented, squad. Instead, the Wildcats dropped a tough contest to Louisville (8-3) before steamrolling IUPUI (4-6) for another weekend split.
Louisville entered the match with a solid 7-3 record, although their best win was against a 3-5 Purdue squad. The ’Cats had the potential to secure a resume-building home win but ended up losing two three-set singles contests to drop the match, 2-4. In doubles, Chris Ephron and Antonioni Fasano won their doubles set 6-2, but Louisville matched Northwestern as the 18th-ranked pair of Christopher Morin-Kougoucheff and Parker Wynn defeated Dominik Stary and Ben Vandixhorn in No. 1 doubles by a score of 7-5. The Cardinals took the winner-take-all third set, as Louisville’s Federico Gomez and Brandon Lancaster beat Nick Brookes and Michael Lorenzini by a 7-5 score.
In singles, No. 92 Antonioni Fasano quickly dropped his match, losing 2-6, 2-6 to Morin-Kougoucheff. Stary and Jason Seidman responded in turn, beating their opponents in straight sets to tie the match at two wins apiece. At No. 3 singles, Nick Brookes won his first set against Wynn but dropped two straight sets to lose 7-5, 1-6, 1-6. Louisville’s Federico Gomez completed the win for the Cardinals by beating Ben Vandixhorn 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 7-5 to take a commanding 4-2 victory. The result was sure to disappoint the ’Cats, who had multiple openings to take the match after winning sets in No. 3 and No. 4 singles. Looking ahead, a cause for concern is Fasano’s play – Northwestern’s only ranked singles player is just 1-5 playing in No. 1 and No. 2 singles for the year. Unless he can step up his game in the top-tier singles matches, Northwestern will have a tough time staying competitive against higher-ranked opponents like Duke and Notre Dame.
Northwestern turned their performance around against IUPUI. The Vandixhorn/Stary and Fasano/Ephron pairings both won dominant 6-0 victories to clinch the doubles point. Northwestern dropped a combined three games in singles, as Stary, Fasano and Joshi won all three of their matches to take a 4-0 victory.
'Cats never dropped a set.— NU Men's Tennis (@NUMensTennis) February 19, 2018
1. Stary 6-0, 6-1
2. Fasano 6-0, 6-1
3. Vandixhorn 7-6 (7-5)
4. Seidman 6-1, 3-0
5. Ephron 6-2, 5-0
6. Joshi 6-1, 6-0#B1GCats 4, IUPUI 0
The Wildcats continue to dominate lesser competition; they’ve steamrolled Boise State, Chicago State and IUPUI. Against better competition, though, the 'Cats crumble; they have yet to defeat a team with a winning record. The 'Cats still have time before Big Ten play to face some of their weaknesses, namely doubles and the top of singles, but non-conference play is dwindling, and the 'Cats are showing the same weaknesses they had at the start of the year. If the team hopes to gather some positive momentum, it needs to do so quickly.
Northwestern’s next match is against Vanderbilt at Combe Tennis Center on Feb. 23.