Feb. 19, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- In a match that lasted well over three hours, Northwestern dropped an agonizing 4-3 decision to No. 25 Notre Dame Thursday evening at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The loss snapped the Wildcats' eight-match season-opening winning streak.
After losing the doubles point, the Wildcats (8-1) fell behind 3-1 before clawing their way back to even it at 3-3 and almost post the upset over the Fighting Irish. Senior Marc Dwyer (Peachtree City, Ga./University of Nebraska-Independent Study H.S.) pulled off a stunning, three-set victory over 18th-ranked Brett Helgeson.
The dual saw three singles matches go into decisive third sets as the Wildcats showed their mettle. The Irish narrowly escaped with the win thanks to a Niall Fitzgerald defeat of freshman Eric Spector (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) at No. 5 singles.
For the first time this season, the Wildcats dropped the doubles point. Alex Sanborn (Houston, Texas/Kinkaid) and Joshua Graves (Milwaukee, Wis./Nicolet) jumped out to an early lead and improved to 9-0 on the season with their 8-2 victory over Notre Dame's Stephen Havens and Casey Watt at No. 2.
However, the Fighting Irish claimed the point with identical 8-4 victories at No. 1 and No. 3. At the top spot, Northwestern's Marc Dwyer and Tobias Reitz (Reinbeck, Germany/Sachsenwaldschule Reinbeck) faced off against the 13th-ranked duo of Brett Helgeson and Tyler Davis. The Wildcats fought hard but dropped the frame.
At No. 3, the tandem of Andrew McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hills) and Alexander Thams (Stockholm, Sweden/Enskilda Gymnasiet) suffered an early break and the tide stayed in favor Niall Fitzgerald and Matt Johnson as they clinched the point for the Irish.
At No. 4 singles, Alex Sanborn
suffered his first defeat of the season at the hands of Notre Dame's Casey Watt. The junior captain dropped the tight first set in a tiebreak, 7-6(4), and fell in the second frame, 6-2.
Freshman Josh Graves claimed the first point for the Wildcats at No. 6 singles in a straight-sets victory over Samuel Keeton, 6-4, 6-2. This was only Keeton's second loss of the season.
Next off the courts was Thams at No. 3, as he faced No. 122 Daniel Stahl. The graduate student dropped the first set, 6-4, and briefly led in the second before falling, 7-5.
At No. 2, Northwestern's Reitz squared off against Notre Dame's Stephen Havens, dropping the first set in a breaker. The Wildcat freshman stormed back to take the second, 6-4. In the decisive third set, Reitz went up an early break and held on for the 6-4 victory to keep the `Cats' hopes alive.
No. 1 singles saw Marc Dwyer face his toughest opponent of the season in Brett Helgeson, ranked No. 18 in the latest ITA standings. The Wildcat senior won the first set, 6-4, but dropped the second, sending the match into a deciding third set.
The third set was tense as the two players were evenly matched for the first few games. Helgeson managed to secure a break and was in position to clinch the match, but Dwyer fought his way back. The senior from Georgia ground out the last four points in a row to pull off the upset, snapping Helgeson's three-match win streak.
With the dual tied at three thanks to Dwyer's heroics, it all came down to No. 5 singles between Spector and Fitzgerald. The two players had exchanged the first two sets and the third was even at five, but the Irishman proved too tough and won it, 7-5.
The Wildcats' tough week continues as they return to Combe Tennis Center this weekend to face Western Michigan at noon on Saturday and No. 48 Harvard at 10 a.m. Sunday.