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Men’s and women’s tennis: How did Northwestern fare at the ITA Kickoff Weekend?

The ‘Cats had quite a hectic weekend on the tennis court.

It was quite a weekend for the Northwestern men’s and women’s tennis teams, as they each played two matches as part of the ITA Kickoff. The ‘Cats experienced mixed results, with the men’s and women’s teams going 1-1 over the weekend.

After dropping their first three games of the year, the men’s team finally found their footing at the ITA Kickoff in Cambridge. They secured a 4-2 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon, which ensured their advancement to the tournament’s second round.

The Rebels started the match strong, securing the doubles point with a pair of wins, which was concerning for Northwestern. The ‘Cats had failed to recover in their last three matches after the opposing team got off to a fast start. However, this time, things went differently for the Wildcats.

Once the match switched to singles, the ‘Cats turned things around as they won on four of six courts against the Rebels.

The ‘Cats delivered strong performances across the board, but one player who stood out was Presley Thieneman. He was sensational against second-team All-SEC selection John Hallquist Lithén. Thieneman narrowly won 7-6 in the first set against Hallquist Lithén. He then followed that up with a commanding 6-2 victory in the second set.

In their second match of the weekend, with a trip to the ITA Indoor National Championship on the line, things went vastly differently for the ‘Cats as they were defeated 4-0 by No. 15 Harvard.

It was an all-around ugly outing for the ‘Cats, as they couldn’t even win one court in either doubles or singles.

The Crimson came out of the gates strong, making it too difficult for the ‘Cats to overcome their momentum.

Harvard’s dominance was evident as they clinched the doubles point with a 6-2 win from Daniel Milavsky and No. 5 Cooper Williams against Gleb Blekher and Felix Nordby.

The ‘Cats’ woes on the court bled into the singles portion of the match. In addition to not winning a single court, none of their players even won a set against the Crimson.

Northwestern will look to bounce back on Friday night when they host Oregon at the Combe Tennis Center.

In contrast to the men’s team, the women’s team had a different experience as they dropped their first contest of the weekend and won their second match.

The ‘Cats came into the weekend’s first match against No. 9 Texas A&M, 3-0, but they couldn’t extend their win streak as the Aggies beat them 4-0.

However, unlike the men’s squad in their match against Harvard, the women’s team displayed resilience throughout their match. It all started in doubles when the ‘Cats began to trouble the Aggies. Despite dropping court one 4-6, Northwestern’s duo of Brittany Lau and Maria Shusharina managed a hard-fought 7-6 victory over Sydney Fitch and Daria Smetannikov. Lao and Shusharina’s victory meant that the outcome on court two would ultimately determine who received the doubles point.

On court two, Sydney Pratt and Elisa Van Meetreren of the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Aggies’ duo of Lucciana Perez and Nicole Khirin. In a closely contested match, Perez and Khirin ultimately secured a narrow 7-6 win over the Wildcats, clinching the doubles point for Texas A&M. While the Wildcats were less competitive in singles compared to their doubles performance, they continued to challenge the Aggies. Despite their valiant efforts, they were unable to secure any courts in singles, leading to a comprehensive sweep by Texas A&M.

In the second match of the weekend, it was a completely different story for Northwestern as they defeated Rice 4-3.

Right off the bat, the ‘Cats found success against the Owls as they won courts two and three in doubles. Northwestern secured a convincing 6-0 win from Lau and Shusharina against Saara Orav and Anushka Ashar. Pratt and Van Meeteren also delivered another decisive victory with a 6-4 win against Divna Ratokvic and Darya Schwartzman.

While Northwestern initially faced adversity in the singles portion, losing two out of the first three matches, it quickly bounced back. The Cats secured a massive win on court three as Pratt defeated Nithesa Selvaraj in three sets with scores of 6-2, 3-6 and 6-1.

The ‘Cats followed that up with a loss on court one as Federica Trevisan defeated Shusharina 7-5 and 6-3, which meant the match point would come down to a showdown between Saara Orav and Kiley Rabjohns.

Orav gave the Owls an early lead in the first set, winning 6-2, but Rabjohns bounced back quickly with a 6-4 victory to tie the match 1-1. In the third set, Rabjohns took complete control of the match as she was able to win 6-2, giving the ‘Cats the match point as they defeated Rice 4-3.

The ‘Cats will look to carry their momentum from their recent win against Rice into their upcoming match against Georgia Tech as they travel to face the Yellow Jackets at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex this Sunday.