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    Cardiac 'Cats Tough Out Another 4-3 Win; Upend No. 33 Minnesota

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Alex Thams provided a crucial win at No. 2 to keep the 'Cats in contention.
    Alex Thams provided a crucial win at No. 2 to keep the 'Cats in contention.

    April 11, 2009


    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Freshman Joshua Graves (Milwaukee, Wis./Nicolet) provided the heroics Saturday afternoon, climbing back from a 1-3 deficit in the third to clinch the 4-3 decision for Northwestern Saturday afternoon against No. 33 Minnesota (15-6, 4-3). With the win, NU (16-6, 4-3) climbs to a tie for third place in the Big Ten and strengthens its case for the NCAA tournament.

    Eight of the `Cats' last 11 duals have come down to 4-3 decisions, with NU winning the last three-in-a-row. They will look to continue their streak as they host Iowa for Senior Day Sunday at noon.

    At No. 4 singles, Wildcat freshman Josh Graves had run away with the first set, 6-2, compiling two breaks along the way only to lose his momentum entering the second. Bilankov reeled off six games in a row to take the second set, 6-2, and take an early lead in the third.

    With the crowd transfixed, his teammates pounding on the glass partition above the courts with every point, Graves handled the pressure of being the last match on court with grit and determination. Minnesota had just tied up the dual 3-all thanks to a win at No. 1, leaving the decision on the racket of Golden Gopher Dino Bilankov as he served up a break in the third set. Whether due to pressure, nerves or the relentlessness of the Wildcat freshman, Bilankov dropped his serve and the match was tied 3-3 in the third.

    After a quick hold by Graves, it was Bilankov's serve again and the Wildcat kept his momentum, breaking the Gopher serve yet again to go up 5-3. Serving for the match, the freshman southpaw faced two break points, fending off both to get to deuce. He gained the ad with a gorgeous running crosscourt forehand that dropped on the line, just past the outstretched racket of Bilankov. Match point came on a long rally with a Gopher groundstroke falling just past the baseline to give Graves the 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 decision and Northwestern the 4-3 victory.



    Minnesota took an early lead in doubles behind an 8-4 win at No. 1 by Ishay Hadash and Sebastian Gallego over Alex Sanborn (Houston, Texas/Kinkaid) and Marc Dwyer (Peachtree City, Ga./University of Nebraska - Independent Study H.S.).

    The `Cats quickly struck back at No. 3, where Andrew McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hills) and Alexander Thams (Stockholm, Sweden/Enskilda Gymnasiet) notched their 14th win of the dual season with an 8-1 defeat of Phillip Arndt and Michael Sicora. The Gophers only got on board once when the match was already in Wildcat control and a McCarthy service winner decided it for the `Cats.

    The deciding match at No. 2 saw freshmen Graves and Tobias Reitz (Reinbeck, Germany/Sachsenwaldschule Reinbeck) against the Gophers' Tobias Wernet and Julian Dehn. The two teams exchanged breaks to open the match, but the `Cats broke again in the eighth game to take the lead. With Reitz serving for the match, the final game saw a Graves overhead and a Reitz volley seal the win and the doubles point, 8-5.

    Minnesota tied it up with a 6-1, 6-2 victory by Sebastian Gallego over Tobias Reitz at No. 3 singles. Reitz broke the Gallego serve several times in the second, but wasn't able to hold his own serve to keep the advantage.

    The Gophers got a 2-1 lead behind a Julian Dehn victory over NU's Alex Sanborn at No. 5. The 6-1, 6-4 decision was closer than the score indicates, with multiple deuces in seemingly every game. The loss was just Sanborn's sixth of the season.

    Eric Spector (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) tied it up for the `Cats with a 6-0, 7-6(5) win at No. 6 over Michael Sicora. After cruising to the first set, Spector had two chances to serve for the match in the second but the Minnesota freshman managed to break both times and force a tiebreak. The Wildcat freshman edged out the tiebreak, 7-5, with match point decided by a rally so tough it left both players doubled over catching their breath.

    NU gained the 3-2 advantage with a 6-4, 6-2 Thams victory over Gopher sophomore Tobias Wernet. After dropping down an early break in the first, Thams stormed back to immediately break back off an inside-out forehand and then broke again to take the set. The Wildcat's momentum continued into the second where he broke Wernet's serve three times to take the frame, 6-2.

    Minnesota stayed alive thanks to a win at No. 1 by Ishay Hadash over Marc Dwyer. The first set was extremely tight with the players exchanging breaks early before Hadash got a crucial break to take the set, 7-5. The Golden Gopher then took the second, 6-3, to send it to the deciding match at No. 5.

    Northwestern 4, Minnesota 3

    1. Ishay Hadash/Sebastian Gallego (MINN) def. Marc Dwyer/Alex Sanborn (NU) 8-4
    2. Tobias Reitz/Joshua Graves (NU) def. Tobias Wernet/Julian Dehn (MINN) 8-4
    3. Andrew McCarthy/Alexander Thams (NU) def. Phillip Arndt/Michael Sicora (MINN) 8-1

    1. Ishay Hadash (MINN) def. Marc Dwyer (NU) 7-5, 6-3
    2. Alexander Thams (NU) def. Tobias Wernet (MINN) 6-4, 6-2
    3. Sebastian Gallego (MINN) def. Tobias Reitz (NU) 6-1, 6-2
    4. Joshua Graves (NU) def. Dino Bilankov (MINN) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
    5. Julian Dehn (MINN) def. Alex Sanborn (NU) 6-1, 6-4
    6. Eric Spector (NU) def. Michael Sicora (MINN) 6-0, 7-6 (7-5)

    Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (3,5,6,2,1,4)