Northwestern men's tennis is off to its best start in program history following a dramatic defeat of Illinois on Saturday. The No. 11 Wildcats (14-1) pulled off a 4-3 upset over No. 8 Illinois (7-6) in a charged atmosphere in Evanston, defeating the Illini for the first time in 27 tries. It was also the program's first ever victory over a top-ten team.
Freshman Ben Vandixhorn earned the clinching victory for the Wildcats at fifth singles with the match knotted at 3-3. Vandixhorn beat fellow rookie Asher Hirsch 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 just moments after the Illini tied up the match with No. 6 Aleks Vukic's three-set win over Northwestern's No. 11 Konrad Zieba at first singles. The match, though, took arguably its biggest turn at second singles with Northwestern's No. 83 Sam Shropshire upsetting No. 8 Jared Hiltzik of Illinois 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. What makes Northwestern's win so surprising too is that just weeks ago, Illinois handled Northwestern in Champaign 4-0. Northwestern has now won 11 straight matches since dropping that one to the Illini.
Here are the full match results:
No. 1 - #6 Aleks Vukic (ILL) def . #11 Konrad Zieba (NU), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
No. 2 - #83 Sam Shropshire (NU) def. #8 Jared Hiltzik (ILL), 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
No. 3 - #63 Aron Hiltzik (ILL) def. #95 Strong Kirchheimer (NU), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
No. 4 - Julian Childers (ILL) def. Fedor Baev (NU), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
No. 5 - Ben Vandixhorn (NU) def. Asher Hirsch, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2*
No. 6 - Alp Horoz (NU) def. Brian Page (ILL), 6-2, 6-1
Order of Finish: 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, 5*
No. 1 - Hiltzik/Jesse (ILL) def. Baev/Kirchheimer (NU), 6-3
No. 2 - Zieba/Shropshire (NU) def. Hiltzik/Vukic (ILL), 6-4*
No. 3 - Horoz/Kumar (NU) def. Childers/Jiang (ILL), 6-3
Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2*
Over the past number of seasons, Illinois (along with Ohio State) has been the class of the Big Ten and is widely regarded as one of the top programs in the nation. But Northwestern has slowly been climbing up the conference's ladder after moving from a strong program in the 1980s and '90s to one that struggled to reach .500 in the mid-2000s. Now, head coach Arvid Swan has taken the Wildcats to a new level, with three top-100 singles players (Zieba, Shropshire and Strong Kirchheimer) who are all juniors, along with a deep, talented and youthful squad.
Later Saturday, Northwestern defeated Detroit with a 7-0 sweep in its final match before spring break.