April 26, 2012
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Vandy Christie Tennis Center)
Score: Northwestern 4, Penn State 2
Records: NU (15-9, 7-4 Big Ten), Penn State (11-14, 1-10 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: April 27 -- vs. Illinois (Evanston, Ill.), 1:30 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern earned a hard-fought doubles point and outlasted Penn State in a trio of three-set singles matches to post a 4-2 victory on the opening day of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Tennis Tournament at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill. Thursday. The Wildcats advance to face third-seeded Illinois in the quarterfinal round at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Thursday's victory marks the first Big Ten Tournament win for the 'Cats since previously beating the Nittany Lions, 4-3, in Bloomington, Ind. on April 29, 2010.
"Penn State is such a tough team to face," said Northwestern head coach Arvid Swan. "They gave us all we could handle and more, but I'm proud of the way that our guys dug deep and found the will to win the first match of the tournament."
For the second time this month, the Wildcats and Nittany Lions engaged in a spirited doubles decision. Northwestern jumped ahead quickly when Sidarth Balaji and Tobias Reitz got the best of PSU's Tomas Hanzlik and C.J. Griffin at No. 3, winning 8-3. The Nittany Lions evened the ledger, however, when the staved off a ferocious comeback at No.1 by NU's Josh Graves and Spencer Wolf. Jason Lee, who was not in the lineup when the two teams met on April 13, and Russell Bader, the 23rd-ranked doubles team according to the ITA, won that match, 8-6.
|Penn State Post-Match Interviews|
The point would be decided at the No. 2 position where Raleigh Smith and Alex Pasareanu mounted a stellar comeback of their own. Trailing at one point, 5-3, the Wildcats roared back to take a 6-5 lead. After the Nittany Lions held serve to even the score once again, Pasareanu did the same to put himself and Smith in a position to win the point if they could break the serve of their opponent. They did just that by shutting out Bryan Welnetz and Taylor Cohen to clinch the game and the doubles point.
"[Pasareanu and Smith] return really well," said Swan. "I knew that if they could hold serve they would have a chance. They stepped up and gave us a crucial point today."
Penn State tied the overall score at one apiece with a win at the No. 5 singles slot. Welnetz took the first set from Pasareanu, 6-4, and grabbed the match victory with a 6-0 shutout in the second set. Northwestern jumped back in front, however, when Chris Jackman, the No. 6 singles player for the 'Cats came back to win his third and decisive set, 6-3.
The advantage was short-lived unfortunately because though Balaji played well, he fell victim to Cohen from Penn State in a dogfight of a second set, 7-6 (4). The remaining three matches in the day's final match all needed third sets to declare a winner.
Smith won his grueling opening frame against Bader, 7-5, but his opponent fought back to even the match at a set apiece with a 6-3 win in set number two. With his boisterous teammates and a supportive crowd behind him, Smith won the third, 6-2, to put the Wildcats back up by a score of 3-2.
Moments later, with much of the crowd fixated on court number one, Graves withstood Lee's best effort in the third set to clinch the match with a 6-4 third-set win. Graves seized the momentum early in the match with a 6-3 win in the first set before Lee claimed victory in the second.
"Josh is a senior, playing number one for us," said Swan. "He really stepped up and displayed the kind of leadership we on the court that we needed from him today."
Waiting for the Wildcats Friday will be the third seed in the Big Ten, instate rival Illinois. That match is slated to lift off at 1:30 p.m. at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center. The Illini got the best of the 'Cats in their first meeting this season, 5-2, in the Big Ten opener for both teams on March 9.
1. No. 23 Jason Lee/Russell Bader (PSU) def. No. 76 Josh Graves/Spencer Wolf (NU) - 8-6
2. Raleigh Smith/Alex Pasareanu def. Bryan Welnetz/Taylor Cohen (PSU) - 8-6
3. Tobias Reitz/Sidarth Balaji (NU) def. Tomas Hanzlik/C.J. Griffin (PSU) - 8-3
Order of finish: 3, 1, 2*
1. Josh Graves (NU) def. Jason Lee (PSU) ¬- 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
2. No. 120 Spencer Wolf (NU) vs. Tomas Hanzlik (PSU) ¬- 7-5, 4-6, 2-2, unfinished
3. Raleigh Smith (NU) def. Russell Bader (PSU) - 7-5, 3-6, 6-2
4. Taylor Cohen (PSU) def. Sidarth Balaji (NU) - 6-3, 7-6 (4)
5. Bryan Welnetz (PSU) def. Alex Pasareanu (NU) - 6-4, 6-0
6. Chris Jackman (NU) def. Chris Hasyn (PSU) - 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
Order of finish: 5, 6, 4, 3, 1*
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