Jan. 11, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern men's tennis team is hungry to prove it belongs. The Wildcats were barely nudged out of an NCAA Tournament bid last year after posting a solid fourth-place finish in the Big Ten, coupled with an overall 15-9 record. But they were left on the outside, looking in.
Fast forward to this year. The `Cats return eight of nine starters for the 2004-05 season and are primed and determined to make a run at postseason play. They open the spring schedule by hosting a 7 p.m. match against DePaul Saturday, Jan. 15 at the Combe Tennis Center and again host against Western Michigan at 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17.
"We have continued to strengthen our schedule this year," Head Coach Paul Torricelli said. "Our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament and advance to the Sweet 16. Hopefully good play through a very strong schedule will get us there."
NU's nonconference schedule is absolutely grueling, featuring a slue of the national's top teams. Mississippi is a top-five team and the 'Cats will also take on perennial powerhouses Harvard, Tulane, Notre Dame and North Carolina.
"We have a tough schedule, but I know this team is up to the challenge," Torricelli said. "We have an experienced group who will be ready to play from the get go."
Torricelli points to the strength of the schedule as a key factor for a successful, nationally ranked program. A few other nonconference matches will bolster that strength of schedule. The Oregon Ducks come to town for a match in mid-February. Then, after the rigors of the first wave of Big Ten competition, NU will head west to battle Pepperdine and San Diego. Pepperdine is coached by former Northwestern assistant coach Adam Steinberg.
With the graduation of Ahmed Wahla last year, seniors Tommy Hanus (Palatine, Ill./Palatine), Justin Hoeveler (Ross, Calif./The Branson School) and Chuck Perrin (Atlanta, Ga./The Walker School) take the leadership reins to guide an otherwise young team comprised of four sophomores and one junior.
Perrin has the most career singles wins (64) out of any Wildcat on the roster and is followed closely by Hanus, who has 60. In the fall of 2004, Hanus and Perrin both turned in their best performances of the fall at the Big Ten Singles Championships. Hanus advanced to the quarterfinals, while Perrin made it to the round of 16.
"Tommy is primed for an outstanding senior year. He has worked hard this fall and is eager to finish his career on a high note. I think he is one of the most dangerous players in our region."
Hoeveler earned NU's Mark Johnson Award in 2004, presented to the player who demonstrates outstanding effort, commitment and desire to improve.
The 'Cats also boast a strong group of underclassmen who have earned a great deal of experience over their brief time at NU. Junior Adam Schaechterle (Oconomowoc, Wis./Kettle Moraine) is one of NU's strongest doubles players, having compiled 46 wins over two years. He also teamed with sophomore Matt Christian (Troy, Mich./Brother Rice)to post NU's best doubles record for the fall of 2004 with a 4-2 mark.
Christian turned in his best performance of the fall by advancing to the quarterfinals of the ITA Midwest Regional Championships in doubles play. He is yet another one of the up-and-coming Wildcats, according to Torricelli.
"Matt is a very athletic, all-around player who did a great job last year starting as a freshman. He's a fighter who thrives in dual matches. We are counting on Matt for more of the same this season."
Sophomore Willy Lock (Lima, Peru/Markham College) will look to improve upon a strong 17-13 mark he put up in singles action last year. At the 2003-04 Boilermaker Invitational, Lock tore through the field, going undefeated. And this fall, Lock showed signs of greatness by posting a 3-1 record in singles play at the ITA Midwest Championships and 6-4 overall.
Christian Tempke (Wentorf, Germany/Gymnasium LohbrÜgge), a sophomore, is another young 'Cats looking to have a break-out season. Tempke was slowed in the fall by injury, but will be ready to go for the spring season according to Torricelli.
"Christian remains one of our most talented all-around players. He really had an impact last year as a freshman and has a terrific work ethic. He is very determined this season, and I think he can emerge as one of the region's top players."
So after losing only one player after a year in which the `Cats were ranked as high as No. 33, NU is confident it can make a run at postseason play. All of the singles players from 2003-04 team had records of two games below .500 or better, with Perrin leading the way at 24-13.
With an outstanding group of underclassmen, experienced returnees and a challenging schedule, Northwestern's men's tennis team will look to make its mark in 2005.