The Wildcats are on the rise — at least according to the most recent edition of the ITA Collegiate Tennis Team Rankings. The Northwestern men’s team is up to the 22nd spot in the poll, up a place from the 23rd post, where it was locked in a tie with Texas A&M in last week’s edition.
The small ascent is indicative of a shaky, mostly successful past few weekends for the ‘Cats. A ranked win against No. 25 Duke to kickoff February contributed to the ladder movement. A loss to No. 18 Harvard that same weekend inhibited an even stronger push.
The men’s season started a month ago on Jan. 15. The group has had stiff competition since the get-go, facing four ranked opponents in its first nine matches. NU won two of those square-offs.
Now, with postseason tournaments on the distant horizon, it’s time for NU’s rackets to find a steady swing. Luckily, the team’s schedule projects to be downhill the rest of the way. At the time of this being written, the ‘Cats aren’t set to face a single top 25 team for the duration of the regular season.
It’s up to coach Arvid Swan to maintain his squad’s sharp focus and signature aggressiveness as it plays through a lull in the schedule.
Looking to set the tone for the next two months, Swan and Co. toppled the 7-win Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Sunday, 4-2.
The day started with doubles play, headlined by Simen Bratholm and Ivan Yatsuk retiring Alabama’s Joao Ferreira and Filip Planinsek, 6-3. Bratholm and Yatsuk are both grad students and have played eight matches together this season, splitting wins and losses with their opponents, four apiece.
Natan Spear and Trice Pickens clutched the category for the Wildcats, winning against a duo of Enzo Aguiard and Yair Sarouk, 7-5. Between both rosters, Aguiard was the highest ranked ITA singles player on the court Sunday (No. 39). Still, the ‘Bama star couldn’t carry his unit to a win.
Singles matches were more competitive. The Tide’s Filip Planinsek lined up in the team’s top slot against Yatsuk. Planinsek, tabbed at 119th in the ITA’s singles rankings, knocked out Yatsuk handily, 6-0 and 6-4.
Northwestern stabilized, winning the heart of the lineup — in the third, fourth and fifth spots. Trice Pickens, Presley Thieneman and Gleb Blekher all took care of business against the red rackets.
The ‘Cats’ trip to Alabama was a successful one. Swan established with his players the level of competitiveness that is to continue throughout a less adrenaline-filled slate of matches. His team responded and took care of business.
On Sunday, the ‘Cats will return to the South to battle Clemson, who owns a respectable 7-2 record. A bit further down the line is a weekend bout, in Evanston, against three teams — Memphis, Vanderbilt and UIC.