The ’Cats (6-4) split their third weekend trip in a row, blasting Vanderbilt (6-3) 7-0 on Friday and narrowly falling 4-3 to #14 Harvard (9-1) on Sunday in as nervy of a game as Northwestern has played all year. Propelled by strong performances down the lineup against Vanderbilt, the ’Cats played their most complete game of the year against a Power 5 opponent without losing a match. Against Harvard, a familiar foe proved too much in their home court in a last second tiebreak loss.
The ’Cats started the match with two doubles victories on courts #1 and #3. Simen Bratholm and Nick Brookes got the first break of the doubles ties after breaking a 40-40 deadlock against Billy Rowe and Panu Virtanen to go up 3-1. The pair did not lose a game for the rest of the set for a 6-1 result. Steven Forman and Natan Spear forced Commodore opposition George Harwell and Macsen Sisam into a double fault to go up 4-2, and Forman closed out the match with an unreturnable serve to give Northwestern the doubles point with a 6-2 win.
Northwestern did not let up in singles. Wildcat starters quickly pulled out break points during their first sets, as Chris Ephron, Forman and Bratholm jumped out to 6-4 wins. Trice Pickens dropped a break, but rebounded to force a tiebreak which he ended up winning by a 7-5 score. Dominik Stary and Brookes dropped their first sets on courts #1 and #3.
Pickens and Forman quickly ended their opposition’s chances at a comeback with resounding second set wins, leaving the ’Cats with one more win left to clinch. At first, Bratholm appeared well on his way to a deciding victory after going up 5-0 in his second set against Marcus Ferreira, but the Commodore responded with five straight points to tie the match before sending it to a tiebreak. With the momentum all on his side, Ferreira cruised to a 7-2 win in the tie.
Ephron won the deciding match for Northwestern with a 6-2 third set win over Macsen Sisam. Brookes and Stary rebounded to win both their second and third sets, while Bratholm won a deciding 6-1 final set over Ferreira.
“All credit to Simen,” Coach Arvid Swan said. “It’s tough like that when you’re up like that and to lose that set but to come back and win the third 6-1 shows a lot of mental fortitude.”
This was the most comprehensive win of the Wildcat’s young season, and Coach Swan noted that the team’s doubles performance set the tone early.
“We played really good doubles,” Swan said. “We carried the momentum into singles, [and] we got up breaks on a lot of courts in singles. [Our] guys played a really complete match and the momentum from doubles to singles helped us a lot.”
The ‘Cats couldn’t complete the weekend sweep against #14 Harvard. The Crimson took the doubles point on a tiebreak after Brookes and Bratholm fell to Brian Shi and Ronan Jachuck. The ‘Cats battled to take singles points on courts #2, 5, and 6, but the game fell to Shi and Stary on court #1. Shi took the first set in a tiebreak, but Stary rebounded for a 4-6 second set win. Shi, serving for the match up 6-5, couldn’t close out to send the match to another tiebreak. The Crimson sophomore emerged victorious, clinching the victory on the last point of the match.
The ’Cats showed impressive resilience throughout the weekend in battling back from early set deficits and missed opportunities. Northwestern dominated a good squad in Vanderbilt, and almost snatched a win in Cambridge against a top-15 team. The ’Cats continue to make promising strides toward proving that they can compete with the top of the conference
Northwestern returns against Columbia this Saturday, Feb. 29 at noon in Combe Tennis Center.