May 21, 2007
EVANSTON, Ill. -- NU entered the 2006-07 campaign facing one of the nation's toughest schedules. The 'Cats faced 12 of the 64 teams that reached the 2007 NCAA Championships and five teams that reached the round of 16. After a 10-14 season, NU bids farewell to seniors Willy Lock (Lima, Peru/Markham College), Christian Tempke (Wentorf, Germany/Gymnasium LobrÜgge) and Matt Christian (Troy, Mich./Brother Rice), while head coach Paul Torricelli will rely on a young core to lead the 'Cats in 2007-08.
While four-year starters Lock, Christian and Tempke leave Northwestern after all making their own mark on the program, freshman Alex Sanborn (Houston, Texas/Kinkaid) and sophomore Marc Dwyer (Peachtree City, Ga./Univ. of Nebraska-Independent Study H.S.) will make up the team's core in 2007-08.
The Wildcats started the fall season with the ITA All-American Championships. Lock won a singles match in the qualifying draw and Tempke gained entry into the main draw, but the story for the Wildcats was the doubles duo of Lock and Christian, who advanced through the qualifying draw and into the main draw.
After taking a match from a pair from Georgia Tech, the duo bowed out of the tournament with a loss to Georgia's highly-ranked doubles team of Flores and Isner, 9-7.
In the fall's next event, the ITA Midwest Regional Championships, Lock and Christian made some noise again. The pair reached the round of 16 while in singles, Lock and Tempke both made the second round. In the season's final event, the Big Ten Singles Championships, Lock and Tempke reached the round of 16.
Torricelli knew the Wildcats were facing one of the most difficult dual-season schedules in the country, with a host of nationally-ranked opponents on the non-conference slate, but NU took two of its first three duals to get out to an early 2-1 start.
The 'Cats topped DePaul, 6-1, in their season opener and downed regional foe Ball State, 5-2, in their third match of the year. NU's second match, against then-29th-ranked Louisville came down to the final match, but the Cardinals took the dual, 4-3.
Torricelli welcomed former assistant and current Pepperdine head coach Adam Steinberg to Evanston for a match at the Combe Tennis Center, but the defending national champions handed the Wildcats a 7-0 loss. The 'Cats got back on the winning path with a 6-1 rout of San Diego.
After downing Arkansas, 7-0, at home on 2/2, the Wildcats took to the road for the first time with a trip to Cambridge, Mass., to take on Harvard. Lock won the clincher to give NU a 4-3 win in its first road contest of 2007.
Before starting the conference slate, NU welcomed then fourth-ranked Mississippi to the Combe Tennis Center. Despite the 5-2 final score in favor of the Rebels, Tempke provided some dramatics for the 'Cats at the No. 2 singles spot, taking tiebreaks in both the second and third set to down ranked Robbye Poole of Ole Miss.
The 'Cats started the Big Ten season at home with matches against Penn State and Michigan, two teams that made the NCAA tournament in 2007. NU gave Penn State all it could handle in the Big Ten opener, but the Nittany Lions took the clincher at No. 6 to win, 4-3. Michigan downed the Wildcats, 5-2, to hand NU its second loss of the conference season.
After facing a pair of non-conference opponents in Notre Dame and Oklahoma, the 'Cats returned to the Big Ten slate with a home contest against Wisconsin. In NU's most exciting match of the year, Lock took the clincher at No. 1 singles to top the then-35th-ranked Badgers.
Christian took his match at No. 3 and Sanborn won at No. 6 to give NU its three singles wins. Lock and Christian defeated Wisconsin's 23rd-ranked Polley and Bauman at No. 1 doubles to seal the first point for the 'Cats.
NU traveled to Purdue and Illinois for its first road trip of Big Ten play and settled for a 1-1 record. The 'Cats surrendered the doubles point to Purdue, but singles wins by Lock, Tempke, Dwyer, Christian and Sanborn gave NU the 5-2 win. Juan Gomez (Mexico City, Mexico) won the 'Cats' only singles match in a 6-1 defeat against then-eighth-ranked Illinois.
The 'Cats dropped their next three Big Ten contests, including a 4-3 loss to Indiana at home where the Hoosiers took the last match on the courts to claim the victory after NU took the doubles point, but the 'Cats would take wins over Iowa and Michigan State as positive momentum into the Big Ten Championship.
Against Michigan State on senior day, Torricelli honored his seniors: Lock, Christian and Tempke, as well as presented Tempke with the inaugural Arlie Weiss Memorial Sportsmanship Award.
NU faced Michigan State in the first round of the Big Ten Championship and the result was similar to the regular season as the 'Cats downed the Spartans, 4-1. NU captured the doubles point with wins at No. 2 by Christian and Lock and at No. 3 by Tempke and Gomez and got singles wins by Dwyer, Christian and Sanborn.
Top-seeded Ohio State ended Northwestern's season by topping the Wildcats, 4-0, in the second round of the Big Ten Championship.
The departures of Christian, Lock and Tempke mean the 'Cats will have big shoes to fill for the 2007-08 campaign, but it will be an opportunity for the Wildcats' veterans to step up into larger roles. Sanborn enjoyed a solid year at the No. 6 singles position and the doubles team of Sanborn and Dwyer moved into the No. 1 doubles spot at the end of the season.
While NU says goodbye to a trio of seniors who played most of their last seasons in the top three singles spots, incoming freshman and a core of veterans will look to bring the 'Cats back to the NCAA Championships for first time since 2005.