Wildcats sweep doubleheader against Duke and Chicago State

    What a difference a win can make.

    Fresh off their first victory of the season against Auburn, the ‘Cats (2-4) took on Duke (3-4) and Chicago State (0-2) in their doubleheader home opener. Northwestern prevailing against the Blue Devils 4-3 in maybe the strongest performance of the season and dismantling the Cougars 4-0 to move within one win of .500 tennis.

    In the most intense match of the season, Northwestern jumped out the gate strong in doubles. Nick Brookes and Simen Bratholm took a 6-2 win vs. Nick Stachowiak and Spencer Furman for their fifth doubles point this season. On Court #3, Antonioni Fasano and Trice Pickens lost 4-6 to Catalin Mateas and Vincent Lin.

    In the deciding third set, Dominik Stary and Chris Ephron took on Jason Lapidus and Robert Levine in a back and forth nailbiter looking for their first doubles point. The ‘Cats pair blew a 3-1 lead but came back from 3-4 down to send the game into a tiebreak. Stary and Ephron took a 5-2 lead they didn’t relinquish, winning 7-6 (7-5) after Levine’s return smashed into the net.

    Duke returned with a vengeance in singles, easily taking the first two matches on Court #5 and Court #1. On five, Ephron lost 2-6, 3-6 to Levine, while Stary, playing in his second match on court #1, lost to Stachowiak 2-6, 4-6. Brookes responded for Northwestern with a tough two-set win against Furman, 6-4, 7-5, for his second straight win on Court #2.

    With the match tied 2-2, the remaining three matches all entered their third sets. Bratholm on Court #4 produced a memorable second set, coming back to send the set to a tiebreak against Lin. The Blue Devil took a three point lead in the tiebreak before Bratholm stormed back to win the set 7-6 (8-6) to give Northwestern some positive momentum. Lin took the third set, however, to put Duke one win away from their fifth victory of the season. Pickens and Fasano, however, had other ideas. On Court #6, Pickens took a 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 win over Lapidus. Fasano faced off against Mateas on Court #3, taking the victory after breaking out to a 3-0 third set lead for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory. His victory gave the ‘Cats their second win of the season.

    Northwestern brought a similar intensity against Chicago State (0-2), overpowering the Cougars in both doubles and singles. Stary and Ephron followed up their dramatic doubles victory with a 6-1 win over George Botha and Nicholas Liddy, while Fasano and Pickens defeated Cody Wurzelbacher and Gonzalo Martinez by the same score.

    Playing in his first singles match of the year, Ben Vandixhorn showed little rust in easily dispatching Wurzelbacher 6-1, 6-0. Pickens took his second match of the day, beating Liddy 6-1, 6-1. Stary clinched the 4-0 triumph with a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Jakov Suler.

    Coach Swan can take a lot of positives from this week’s finish, especially in the squad’s doubles play; Brookes and Bratholm have established themselves as a dangerous pairing with five wins in six. In singles, the switch between Stary and Brookes at the top of the singles order has paid dividends against Auburn and Duke. The ‘Cats didn’t wilter against an upperclassmen-heavy Blue Devils side that defeated Northwestern last year, while Pickens and Bratholm continue to develop into their starting-caliber roles. Chicago State didn’t present as strong of a challenge, but the ‘Cats rolled through the Cougars with ease. 

    Northwestern takes on Oklahoma State in Evanston this Thursday at 6 pm.


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