It was another incredible season for Northwestern men’s tennis, albeit with an all-too-familiar ending.
The No. 21 Wildcats (22-11) lost 4-1 to No. 8 California on Saturday in Berkeley, ending their season in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 for the third consecutive season.
Northwestern beat Utah State on Friday in the opening round and were able to take the doubles point from the Golden Bears, but Cal dominated the singles portion of the match en route to the victory.
Doubles wins from Konrad Zieba/Sam Shropshire and Chris Ephron/Michael Lorenzini at Nos. 1 and 3 gave Northwestern a crucial 1-0 lead, but it ended up not mattering. Zieba and Shropshire beat Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat, the country’s fifth-best doubles pairing, by a score of 6-4.
Ben Vandixhorn, Dominik Stary and Zieba all lost their singles matches in straight sets to dig Northwestern a 3-1 deficit, making each of the remaining matches must-wins for Arvid Swan’s team.
Nos. 1 and 3 Strong Kirchheimer and Shropshire won their opening sets before losing the next, and were each in the middle of their respective third sets when Jason Seidman lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to Bjorn Hoffman at No. 6 to clinch the win for Cal.
Still, it was a very successful season for Northwestern, which won its first 10 matches in a program record start. The Wildcats also ended the regular season in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten.
The problem that lies ahead is how Northwestern will be able to deal with the graduations of its three seniors — Kirchheimer, Shropshire and Zieba — all of whom played a major role on this year’s team. At least for Kirchheimer, who was selected for the NCAA Singles Tournament to be played in two weeks, there is some more college tennis still to be played. For Shropshire and Zieba, unfortunately, the same cannot be said.