The up-and-down season continues.
The ‘Cats (5-2) split the first two games of their road trip to the east coast against a reeling a Louisville (5-2) side and rising power Duke (7-0). After an impressive victory over Louisville, the ‘Cats fell to an undefeated Duke squad as the continue their search for their first win against a ranked opponent this season.
The ‘Cats continued their momentum from last week’s win over Memphis early on. In Louisville, native Illinoisan Spear made his collegiate debut in doubles, pairing with Steven Forman on court #3. Chris Ephron and Dominik Stary got Northwestern started with a 6-3 result on court #2 before Forman and Spear finished off the Cardinals 6-2.
Simen Bratholm, Nick Brookes, and Forman picked up three wins in singles to close out the contest, while Louisville’s David Mizrahi picked up the home team’s sole win of the contest over Trice Pickens.
Duke had just come off a dominant victory over #19 Illinois. If the Wildcats were going to spring the upset, winning the doubles point was a must. Spear continued to impress with Forman as the pair won a convincing 6-3 result on court #3. Ephron and Stary got blanked in a 0-6 shutout, leaving Bratholm and Brookes on court #1. The pair was dead even with Nick Stachowiak and Sean Scully up until the players moved to a tiebreak to decide things. The Blue Devils eeked out a 7-5 win, and the all-important doubles point.
Singles didn’t go any better for the ‘Cats. Pickens, Ephron, and Forman lost in straight sets to end the match. Stary was the only Wildcat to win his first set on court #2 in an overwhelming performance by Duke, who avenged last year’s close loss to Northwestern in Evanston.
Louisville may have been the ‘Cats’ best win of the season to date, given that the Cards had knocked off perennial power Virginia earlier this season and had only lost to #5 Baylor. Duke but the ‘Cats back down to earth, however, as they jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back. Consistency between matches is going to be key for Northwestern to sustain any success this season.
Northwestern next takes on Kentucky this Friday, Feb. 7 in Lexington.