The Wildcats have been playing better tennis the last couple of weeks, but they simply ran into a buzz saw on Friday night in Evanston.
Northwestern, which lost a close 4-3 decision to No. 14 Michigan last Sunday, played another ranked Big Ten opponent in No. 2 Ohio State. However, the Wildcats (18-9, 6-4 Big Ten) were never really in this match, falling 6-1 to the Buckeyes (25-3, 10-0 Big Ten).
Ohio State had won eight consecutive matches heading into Friday’s meeting with Northwestern, and the Buckeyes got off to a good start by winning the first two doubles matches to get the quick point.
At No. 1, Konrad Zieba and Sam Shropshire played Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen tight but couldn’t get the late break they needed, losing 6-4. That followed Chris Ephron and Michael Lorenzini’s loss at No. 3 to give Ohio State a 1-0 lead.
Singles wasn’t much easier, as the Wildcats fell at every position except for No. 4, where Dominik Stary beat Kyle Seelig in a third set tiebreak.
Ohio State, with top 10 players in Torpegaard (No. 1) and Hugo Di Feo (No. 8) and freshman phenom JJ Wolf, rolled through the home team and only gave up a pair of sets. The decisive match was No. 6 singles, where Jason Seidman fell to Pollanen in straight sets.
While the result was disappointing, a very large crowd at the Combe Tennis Center was able to see the Wildcats — now the No. 21 team in the country — hang right with an Ohio State team that hasn’t faced many obstacles this season.
Considering that the Big Ten Tournament begins next Thursday in West Lafayette, Indiana, Northwestern seems to be peaking at the right time and a pair of wins in Sunday’s home doubleheader against Penn State and Chicago State would certainly go a long way.
The Buckeyes will conclude their regular season on Sunday, as they’ll head a few hours south to Champaign for a road match against Illinois.