March 9, 2012
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Combe Tennis Center)
Score: Illinois 5, Northwestern 2
Records: NU (7-4, 0-1 Big Ten) ILL (8-3, 3-0 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Friday, March 23 -- at Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa), 1:30 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern hung tough against its intrastate rival No. 20 Illinois in front of a capacity crowd at the Combe Tennis Center Friday night, but the 'Cats fell just short to the Illini, 5-2.
"That was a tremendous atmosphere tonight," head coach Arvid Swan said after the match. "We played tough against a very good Big Ten team. I felt we could have gotten that doubles point down the stretch - that's where we have to finish. But overall, I though we had some good play individually. Spencer (Wolf) played very well today for us in doubles and at No. 2."
It was nearly an hour of back-and-forth tennis before any one of the doubles matches was decided. At No. 3, Sidarth Balaji and Tobias Reitz fell into an early, 3-0 hole to Illinois' Stephen Hoh and Farris Gosea. The `Cat duo then took a full head of steam and reeled off four of the next five wins, but Hoh and Gosea were able to stem the tide and take three of the final four, despite multiple deuces throughout.
Playing as the Wildcats' No. 1 tandem for the fifth time this season, Raleigh Smith and Alex Pasareanu used the crowd's momentum early. The pair were down 2-0 to Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich, but roared back and held serve the next four times, leading them to take six of the next eight games. Nevolo and Kalmanovich took the final four games, however, to take the match, 8-6, giving the Illini the doubles point.
Even though Illinois had the first point in hand, NU's No. 2 team of Spencer Wolf
and Chris Jackman
continued to put up a fight. The two `Cats found themselves in a 1-4 deficit to Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon before lighting up the courts claiming the next four of five games. Kopinski and Guignon managed to tie things up, with wins in the 11th and 13th games, sending the match to a first-to-seven tiebreaker. Wolf and Jackman started in a 2-3 hole, but rolled to a 7-5 win after claiming the next five of seven games to take the tiebreaker.
Seeing the court for the first time in nearly a month, senior Josh Graves found himself in a fight against the No. 4 player in the country, Dennis Nevolo. Graves started out strong with a burst of energy, handling a 2-1 lead in the first. Nevolo settled down, however and took the next seven games over two sets, eventually downing Graves in his return, 6-2, 6-2.
Following Graves, Chris Jackman fell to Farris Gosea at No. 6, 6-3, 6-4. Jackman put together a few nice runs in the middle of both sets to make things interesting, but Gosea - a last minute addition to the lineup - took the final two games of each set in the win.
Charged with facing the No. 21 singles player in the country, Spencer Wolf put on a show on the No. 2 line. Wolf took control early, and won the first set, 6-3 over Roy Kalmanovich. Wolf then took six of the second set's first seven games en route to a 6-2 second-set victory, giving the `Cats their first game.
Though Alex Pasareanu fell quickly in his first set against Tim Kopinski, 6-2, the freshman stood firm in the second, going toe-to-toe with the Illini. He and Kopinski traded blows until Pasareanu stole three consecutive games to take a 4-2 advantage. Kopinski kept the Wildcat on his heels, though, and won three of the final four games to take the match, 6-2, 7-5, clinching the fourth point for Illinois.
Raleigh Smith followed close behind with a stellar victory at No. 3, his fourth win at that spot and his team-best 10th overall dual win of the season. Smith was challenged throughout the match, even trailing 4-2 in the second, but the sophomore `Cat came out on top, 6-4, 7-5, for NU's second win of the evening.
Finishing up at No. 4, Sidarth Balaji and Bruno Abdelnour played with tenacity for the entire match. Abdelnour squeezed out a 7-5 first-set victory, but Balaji pounded his way to a 6-3 win in the second. Because the match was in Illinois' hands, the two would have to bout in a first-to-ten scenario. Balaji was down in an early 7-2 hole, but battled back to down just 8-6. Abdelnour took the final two points, though, en route to a 7-5, 3-6, 10-6 victory.
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 6, 2, 5*, 3, 4):
1: No. 4 Dennis Nevolo (ILL) def. Josh Graves - 6-2, 6-2
2: Spencer Wolf (NU) def. No. 21 Roy Kalmanovich (ILL) - 6-3, 6-2
3: Raleigh Smith (NU) def. Stephen Hoh (ILL) - 6-4, 7-5
4: Bruno Abdelnour (ILL) def. Sidarth Balaji (NU) - 7-5, 3-6, 6
5: Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. Alex Pasareanu (NU) - 6-2, 7-5
6: Farris Gosea (ILL) def. Chris Jackman (NU) - 6-3, 6-4
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2):
1: No. 41 Dennis Nevolo/Roy Kalmanovich (ILL) def. Alex Pasareanu/Raleigh Smith (NU) - 8-6
2: Spencer Wolf/Chris Jackman (NU) def. Tim Kopinski/Ross Guignon - 8-7 (5)
3: Stephen Hoh/Farris Gosea (ILL) def. Sidarth Balaji/Tobias Reitz (NU) - 8-5
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