Northwestern Men’s Tennis (4-8) is entering a two-week hiatus prior to conference play on a low note, reeling after two consecutive 3-4 losses to Vanderbilt (9-2) and Harvard (12-2) during its third weekend double-header in a row. Despite strong play in singles, especially from Dominik Stary against Vanderbilt, the ‘Cats were unable to recover from the past few weekend splits; with these losses, the Northwestern team gave up any momentum it gained after splitting with Louisville and IUPUI, leading to an uncertain air surrounding the team’s prospects in Big Ten play.
Against Vanderbilt, the ‘Cats quickly put themselves in a hole as the Ben Vandixhorn/Stary and Antonioni Fasano/Chris Ephron pairings dropped two 3-6 matches, giving the Commodores the point. In singles, AJ Joshi lost 2-6, 2-6 to George Harwell, and #50 Cameron Klinger beat Nick Brookes, 6-2, 7-6 in Brookes’ first match in #2 singles. With a commanding 3-0 lead, the Commodores appeared poised for victory, and Commodore Maxwell Freeman took down Jason Seidman, 7-6, 6-3 to clinch the game for Vanderbilt.
Undaunted, the ‘Cats stormed back to win the next three matches to bring the score to a more respectable 3-4 game. Following wins by Vandixhorn and #107 Fasano, Dominik Stary turned in the performance of the night for the Wildcats against #52 Daniel Valent. After losing the first set 3-6, Stary took the second set 7-5 before winning the match with a gripping 13-11 final set win. The win marks Stary’s best of the season and his only victory against a ranked opponent.
The ‘Cats came out firing against the Crimson, though, as the Stary/Vandixhorn and Ephron/Fasano pairs took two 6-4 victories to win the doubles point. In singles, Ephron continued his sparkling form by winning a quick 6-3, 6-2 win over Logan Weber. The Crimson responded by taking #5 singles, as Robert Wrzesinski beat Seidman 6-1, 7-6 to pull Harvard within one. The squads split the next two games, with the match coming down to #1 and #2 singles. Following his astounding performance against Vanderbilt, Stary played another nail biter against Kenny Tao, losing 5-7, 6-4, 4-6 to put the pressure on Nick Brookes. The freshman, playing in just his second start at #2 singles, took Crimson Andy Zhou to a third set before finally falling 5-7, 7-5, 2-6.
Andy’s winning point: pic.twitter.com/zfFxEVWG0c— Harvard Men's Tennis (@HarvardMTennis) February 25, 2018
Unfortunately, both matches posed winnable games against solid but not spectacular teams. The ‘Cats showed heart, especially after losing the first four games against Vanderbilt, but at 4-8 and without a single win against a team with a winning record, the ‘Cats may struggle in a conference with four top 50 Big Ten teams, including #3 Ohio St. and #7 Illinois. Unless Northwestern’s young squad can overcome its growing pains, a return to the NCAA tournament will be a pipe dream. Sound familiar?