The No. 35 Wisconsin mens tennis team was on the brink of beating No. 45 Northwestern for its first time in its last nineteen tries but fell just short, 4-3, in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday afternoon.
With the dual tied at 3-3 and only No. 1 singles left undecided, Wildcat Willy Lock was able to withstand a terrific effort from Nolan Polley (Lexington, Ky.) to clinch the match for Northwestern (6-8, 1-2). After Polley took a close first set, 7-6 (7-1), Lock came roaring back to take the second, 6-1. The third set was as close as could be, but Lock eventually finished Polley off, winning 6-4.
The match, however, was not without a few bright spots for Wisconsin (7-2, 1-1).
Just before Northwestern clinched the win, Michael Dierberger (Milwaukee, Wis.) came up with a valiant come-from-behind effort at No. 5 singles to keep the Badgers in contention for the match. The freshman dropped the first set, 6-3, to Juan Gomez, but then won the second, 6-4. A tightly contested third set concluded in a tiebreaker that Dierberger claimed to win the set, 7-6 (7-4). Dierberger now holds a solid 5-1 record on the season.
Also encouraging in the match was Jeremy Sonkins (Wheaton, Ill.) successful return from a back injury that had sidelined him since Feb. 11. The junior showed no signs of rust, defeating Christian Tempke at No. 2 singles, 6-2, 7-6 (10-8).
Wisconsins third match point came from No. 96 Moritz Baumann (Inzlingen, Germany). The freshman put in his typical dominating performance, beating Marc Dwyer, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 2 singles and improving his record to 7-1 along the way.
The contests doubles competition saw a great performance by Michael Dierberger and Michael Muskievicz (Homewood, Ill.) that the two young stars are growing accustomed to. The freshman tandem defeated Marc Dwyer and Alex Sanborn, 8-2, at No. 2 doubles to boost their 2007 record to 6-2.
Northwestern, however, was still able to take the doubles point. Lock/Christian defeated No. 23 Polley/Baumann, 9-7, at No. 1 doubles, while Tempke/Gomez beat Lachezar Kasarov (Burgas, Bulgaria) and Felipe Bellido (Lima, Peru), 8-5, at the No. 3 spot.
Wisconsin will now look forward to an important weekend on the road that will carry great conference implications. First, the Badgers travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to face undefeated Purdue (6-0, 1-0) on Saturday, March 10, at noon. Following their match with the Boilermakers, Wisconsin will travel west for their dual against No. 7 Illinois (7-3, 0-0). The match will take place in Champaign, Ill., at noon on Sunday, March 11.