Apr. 23, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- No. 32 Northwestern heads to post-season play with a trip to Michigan State for the Big Ten Tournament. The fifth-seeded Wildcats will take on 12th-seeded Iowa in the first round on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.
Last year at the Big Ten Tournament, NU also met Iowa in the first round and beat the Hawkeyes 4-1. The ‘Cats then faced Illinois in the quarterfinal, but fell 4-2.
With two wins over Wisconsin and then No. 51 Minnesota last weekend, the Wildcats improved to No. 32 in the nation this week. NU enters the post-season 19-9 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten.
The doubles team of senior Raleigh Smith and sophomore Mihir Kumar also rose in the rankings to No. 28, five spots up from their previous position. The duo beat the then 20th-ranked Minnesota team of Jack Hamburg and Mathieu Froment 8-5 last Sunday.
Smith has also enjoyed recent success in singles play. The senior capped his career in Evanston with a 7-6 (7-0), 0-6, 7-6 (7-4) home victory over Minnesota’s then No. 39 Leandro Toledo. This week, his singles ranking climbed twelve spots to No. 46. Smith has anchored the No. 1 position for the Wildcats, and is 12-9 overall and 5-6 against Big Ten opponents.
Freshman Sam Shropshire made history last weekend in his inaugural season at Northwestern, becoming the first Wildcat in over twenty years to go undefeated in Big Ten competition (the last player to do so was Jeff Giraldo in 1992). With a 10-0 conference record and 22-5 overall, Shropshire checks in at No. 120 in the nation this week. Playing at No. 2, he claimed his eleventh consecutive singles win last Sunday to extend his unbeaten streak to fourteen.
Fellow classmate Strong Kirchheimer has had an impressive first year at NU as well. Kirchheimer finished the regular season on an eleven-match win streak in singles, and has won five consecutive doubles contests with sophomore Fedor Baev. Holding a 10-1 record in conference competition, Kirchheimer is 23-6 on the season, and leads the team in overall singles victories.
Junior Alex Pasareanu also finished the regular season strong. He captured his eighth straight singles win last weekend, and is 15-6 on the season and 8-2 in Big Ten play.
Iowa is 9-14 on the season but 1-10 in conference play. Still, the Hawkeyes remain a resilient team. Jonas Dierckx defeated then No. 33 Leonard Stakhovsky of Penn State this past weekend, and cracked the singles ranking at No. 124 this week. Northwestern claimed a 5-2 win over Iowa a couple weeks ago, a match that took a lengthy four and a half hours to complete.
If the ‘Cats win on Thursday, they will face No. 34 Purdue, the tournament’s fourth seed, on Friday. The Boilermakers edged Northwestern 4-3 earlier this season.
For more information on the tournament, visit the tournament page.
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