Northwestern cruised through its first 10 matches of the season to set a program record for best start. Then, the Wildcats faced three ranked opponents in three days, and suffered their first three losses of 2017.
The Wildcats (10-3) fell to No. 12 Oklahoma State on Friday 4-2 and lost heartbreaking 4-3 results to No. 14 Oklahoma on Saturday and No. 16 Mississippi State on Sunday. The matches were part of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships down in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Northwestern, as a No. 6 seed in the tournament, was considered the “favorite” in all three matches. The Wildcats entered the weekend’s play tied with UCLA at No. 7 in the ITA’s latest national rankings, and should fall a few spots when the rankings are updated this Wednesday.
A key tenet of Arvid Swan’s team’s success so far has been in doubles, but that wasn’t the case over the weekend. Northwestern lost its first two doubles points of the season on Friday and Saturday, giving the Wildcats an initial disadvantage they couldn’t overcome.
Against Oklahoma State, NU’s second and third doubles split their matches, leaving it up to Konrad Zieba and Sam Shropshire. But, they were matched up with Julian Cash and Arjun Kadhe, the No. 5 doubles pairing in the country, and fell down 6-4.
In singles, Cash’s straight-set win over Strong Kirchheimer clinched the victory for the Cowboys despite wins by Jason Seidman and Zieba.
Saturday’s match was much more closely contested, as Northwestern actually took a 2-1 overall lead after singles wins by Ben Vandixhorn and Zieba. The back-and-forth affair continued with close losses by Dom Stary and Shropshire, each involving a tiebreak. But, Vandixhorn’s 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 5 singles over A.J. Chamdani tied the match at three points apiece.
That made Seidman’s No. 6 match with Jochen Bertsch the decider. He took the first set 7-6 and lost the second 6-3. The dramatic third set tiebreak went to six-all before Bertsch took it and clinched the match for Oklahoma.
Kirchheimer/Stary and Vandixhorn/Chris Ephron started Sunday’s match with wins to get the doubles point for Northwestern, and the Wildcats seemed headed toward a tournament-salvaging win after singles triumphs from Zieba and Stary put them up 3-1.
However, Shropshire dropped a second set tiebreak and Seidman fell in three sets, evening things up. Then, in a matchup of nationally ranked players between No. 25 Kirchheimer and No. 3 Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, a decisive third set went to Borges by a score of 6-3.
The Wildcats look to bounce back next Friday at Notre Dame before heading home on Sunday for a rematch with Oklahoma State in the first half of a doubleheader, with UIC the opponent in the nightcap.