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Tennis: Wildcat Men’s and Women’s teams are dancing in May

Both squads return to familiar, higher-stakes territory.

When a school boasts just one athletic team making its NCAA Tournament, it’s a feat worthy of celebration.

When you send both of your programs within the same sport to the Big Dance, that’s worth far more than a tip of the cap.

Their regular seasons and Big Ten Tournaments complete, Northwestern’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams have each qualified for postseason play in the NCAA Tournament. 2021-22 marks the second straight calendar year that both court squads have made the postseason.

Both teams faced Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, and each emerged victorious.

The No. 3-seeded women earned an automatic bid to the quarterfinals, where they beat the Cornhuskers 4-3 in a tight affair. The ‘Cats went 4-2 in singles play, with Maria Shusharina, Ema Lazic, Christina Hand and Justine Leong winning their matches. While NU’s lone doubles win was via the tandem of Sydney Pratt and Hannah McGolgan, it was enough to skate by and advance to the semifinals.

The No. 4 seed in their tournament, the Wildcat men, too, started play in the quarterfinals, downing the ‘Huskers 4-0. Steve Forman, Simen Bratholm and Trice Pickens all won singles matches, and the duos of Bratholm/Brian Berdusco and Pickens/Natan Spear clinched the victory for Northwestern.

Despite incurring different opponents in their respective semifinals, both teams faced similar fates.

Matched against the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines, the Northwestern women fell 4-3. Although Clarissa Hand beat national No. 19 Kari Miller in three sets, the ‘Cats won just one other singles match, losing solo competition 4-2. While Shusharina/Clarissa Hand and Briana Crowley/Christina Hand won their doubles matches, the Wolverines’ singles play vaulted them into the championship, where UM stunned Ohio State to win the conference title.

On the men’s side, NU was no match for the Buckeyes, falling 4-0. OSU went 3-0 in completed singles matches and 2-1 in doubles play; a doubles win from Bratholm/Berdusco proved insufficient against the country’s No. 4 squad. The Buckeyes, though, went on to lose to Michigan on the men’s side, too.

Coming up bitterly short in conference tournaments didn’t spell ultimate disappointment for either tennis team, though.

Both Wildcat programs will open NCAA Tournament play this weekend: the men square off with East Tennessee State today at 9 a.m. CT from Lexington, Kentucky, while the women battle Wake Forest in Athens, Georgia on Saturday at 9 a.m CT.

Arvid Swan’s team seeks its first-ever appearance in the Super Regionals, while Claire Pollard & Co. strive for at least a fifth-place finish for the first time since 2009. Both teams won one game in last year’s NCAA Tournament, yet neither has ever taken home the crown.