NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

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    May 17, 1998

    Marc Silva and Alex Witt Take on NCAA's Best

    By Kathleen Paluso
    Northwestern Media Services Student-Assistant

    EVANSTON, Ill.--They're a pair. A tandem. But not a doubles team. They play in the number one and number two men's tennis spots for the Northwestern Wildcats. They're the two best players in the Big Ten this season. Next week, they take on the best players in collegiate tennis in Athens, Ga.

    They dominated the Big Ten in 1998. Their strength became obvious at the Big Ten Singles Championship in January. On January 26, after five-straight victories apiece, Marc Silva faced Alex Witt for the title. Senior Witt was coming off consecutive victories over Northwestern teammates Ry Tarpley and Doug Bohaboy, and at the time was ranked 15th nationally.

    "That was tough," said Witt. "That was the first time I'd ever played anyone from NU in a tournament. It was hard to be really competitive."

    Junior Silva had just eliminated Indiana's Gabriel Montilla and Illinois' Oliver Freelove, but was ranked just 48th nationally.

    Silva said that the match was "a postive thing for our tennis program, but it was a little strange to play against someone from the team. It was different, because we know so much about each other's game. We had to put that aside and face each other as opponents."

    Silva's surprising win over Witt made him the Big Ten Singles Champion. The rest of the tandem's amazing season was still ahead.

    Currently ranked 31st nationally, with an overall record of 28-5, Silva plays at NU's number one singles spot. Witt, currently ranked 33rd nationally, plays at number two with an overall record of 30-10.

    In doubles, Witt teams with Doug Bohaboy, and they have a 6-5 overall record. Silva pairs with Tarpley. They have a 7-4 overall record, with five of the wins coming in Big Ten competition.

    The tandem came to Northwestern separated by one year and 1,500 miles. Silva, from Telford, Pa., stands 5'11, three inches shorter than Houston-born Witt. Their personalities are completely opposite, said Witt. "I'm a little more calm, a little quieter on the court. Marc's a little more boisterous, a little louder. It's a good asset to have us both. We strengthen each other."

    Silva agreed: "[Witt's] definately more quiet, more laid back. I'm the more intense more forward. He's more midwestern, I'm more east coast."

    But beyond their personalities, the differences seem to disappear. Silva and Witt even weigh the same amount: 170 pounds.

    Both were named to the All-Big Ten team their sophomore and junior years. Both were named Big Ten Player of the Year: Silva in '98 and Witt in '97. Both are aggressive players, Silva from the baseline and Witt with his serve. Not surprisingly, both were ranked in the U.S. Tennis Association's 18-and-under age group while in high school. Silva was ranked 19th in 1994, Witt 33rd in 1993. In 1995-96, Witt recorded a NU-career high 32 wins. Silva led the 'Cats with 33.

    In a way, the finals matchup at the end of the Big Ten Singles Championship was inevitable. The tandem is evenly matched. In 1997, Silva and Witt became the first pair of Northwestern men's singles players to be named to the All-Big Ten team since its 1972 establishment.

    Witt says that he only has one disappointment in his NU career: Despite being ranked first in '97 and second in '98, the NU men's tennis team did not win the championship either year.

    "I definitely expected us to get to the finals [in the Big Ten tournament], because we're a more talented team than anyone but Illinois," said Witt. However, the 'Cats lost in the finals to the Illini in both '97 and '98.

    They now look forward to the NCAA Singles Tournament. "It's been a goal to me, to make it to the NCAA. First, you hope to make it as a team, but I'm still really excited that Alex and I are going," said Silva. They head to Georgia next week, where the tandem hopes to conquer their foes- Alex calmly, Marc boisterously.