Northwestern and Illinois played their third nail-biting match of the year in the Big Ten semifinals, but this time the Wildcats came out on the wrong end.
The No. 13 Cats fell to the No. 17 Fighting Illini 4-3 in the teams’ third meeting of the season.
NU got off to a good start Saturday by winning the doubles point as they had in their earlier victory. Juniors Sam Shropshire and Konrad Zieba quickly won at No. 2 doubles 6-0, and the pair of junior Alp Horoz and senior Mihir Kumarwon in tiebreaker 7-6 (1) at No. 3.
Freshman Ben Vandixhorn, the winner of the clinching match in the previous match against Illinois, won 6-1, 7-5 to put the Cats up 2-0. Zieba then lost to the No. 4 player in the country, Aleks Vukic, by a score of 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, Zieba’s third loss to Vukic in three sets this year.
Senior Fedor Baev also lost for the third time this year to Julian Childers, 7-5, 6-3, tying the match at 2. Then junior Strong Kirchheimer avenged his only loss of the dual season thus far with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over Aron Hiltzik to put the Cats one match from the finals.
However, the team’s repeatedly-state goal of winning a Big Ten championship would not come as Shropshire and Horoz both followed with losses in tight three set matches.
NU will now prepare for the NCAA tournament, which starts in two weeks. The top-16 teams in the nation get to host a Regional Championship match, but with the No. 13 ranking, the Cats sit on edge of that mark heading into the tournament.
Full results from Saturday’s loss:
Illinois beats Northwestern 4-3. Illini will face Ohio State at 12 pm on Sunday in the Big Ten championship match pic.twitter.com/s9VhyCvSJV
Luke Donald, who was a four-time All-Big Ten golfer at Northwestern from 1998 to 2001, returned to Evanston this weekend to practice at the Wildcats’ indoor facility, sharing the above photo on Instagram.
Donald turned pro in 2001 and is tied for the program’s second-lowest 54-hole score since 1990, scoring a 202 in the 2001 U.S. Collegiate Championships. In 1999, Donald won the individual NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships, breaking the scoring record previously held by Tiger Woods. He was also named a first-team All-American in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Professionally, Donald was named PGA Player of the Year in 2011 and battled back and forth for the No. 1 spot in the world with Rory McIlroy in 2012. His best finishes in a major were ties for third in the 2005 Masters and 2006 PGA Championship.
Director of Golf and Player Development Pat Goss also tweeted about Donald’s return as the golfer visited The Glen Club in Glenview, Illinois earlier Saturday.
Eight days after snapping Michigan’s 37-game Big Ten win streak, Northwestern couldn’t put on a repeat performance as the Wolverines swept the Wildcats 4-0 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Saturday.
After dropping the doubles point, the Wildcats lost singles matches at No. 5 by Jillian Rooney, No. 3 by Alicia Barnett and No. 4 by Alex Chatt. Saturday was the first time Northwestern got swept since March 25 against Texas Tech.
Michigan will go on to face Ohio State for the conference title.
Superback Dan Vitale was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 22nd pick in the 6th round (197th overall) of the NFL Draft on Saturday. He is the second Wildcat to be drafted, after Dean Lowry was taken by the Green Bay Packers near the end of the 4th round.
Vitale led Northwestern in all receiving categories during his senior campaign, hauling in 33 catches for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over his Wildcat career, the Wheaton, Illinois native totaled 135 catches for 1,427 yards, and his 11 career receiving touchdowns are tied for tenth-most in program history. Additionally, Vitale picked up second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2015.
The Buccaneers had shown interest in Vitale leading up to the draft, hosting him for a private workout earlier this month. He also visited privately with the New England Patriots.
As the superback position does not exist in the NFL the Buccaneers drafted Vitale as a fullback, but he could also find snaps at tight end. He joins a Tampa Bay squad that finished 6-10 and in last place in the NFC South last season.
Northwestern defensive end Dean Lowry was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 4th round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. The Packers selected him at 137th overall.
At 6-foot-6 and 296 pounds, Lowry appeared in all 13 games during his senior campaign in 2015, registering 31 solo tackles and 3 sacks. He also set a career-high with 13.5 tackles for loss last season and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
At the NFL scouting combine, Lowry impressed with 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds, fifth-most for all defensive lineman and a 4.81 second 40-yard dash.
Lowry joins a Green Bay squad that lost in the NFC Divisional Round to the Arizona Cardinals. He will sit behind defensive ends Letroy Guion and Datone Jones on the depth chart.
During Northwestern’s regular-season finale against Ohio State, sophomore Selena Lasota scored three goals in the first half. The Wildcats are trying to remain eligible for the NCAA Tournament by returning to .500. If NU loses, it would have to win the Big Ten Tournament in order to qualify for NCAAs.
Lasota’s goal gave the Cats a 9-7 lead over the Buckeyes.
Northwestern wasted no time during their dominating win in the Big Ten Tournament over Purdue.
The No. 13 Wildcats earned a first-round bye after earning the No. 2 seed, defeating the Boilermakers 4-1. They improved over their 4-2 win against Purdue just over a month ago.
The match began similarly to the previous contest with NU taking the doubles point, this time by virtue of a 7-5 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-4 win at No. 2 doubles.
Juniors Sam Shropshire and Strong Kirchheimer jumped out to easy wins in singles play, winning their matches by scores of 6-1, 6-2, and 6-1, 6-0, respectively. These matches put the Cats ahead 3-0 overall before senior Fedor Baev lost 5-7, 3-6.
Alp Horoz then closed out the match with a 6-4, 6-3 win to send NU to the semifinals. All three singles winners Friday also won their matches the last time the Cats faced the Boilermakers.
NU now will face off against the winner of No. 17 Illinois and Penn State on Saturday. The Cats defeated both teams in their most recent matchups, but were swept by the fighting Illini earlier in the season.
After a bye into the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern faced host Michigan State, whom the Wildcats had just beat handily last weekend, and defeated the Spartans 4-1.
This tournament match was no different as NU took the doubles point quickly with wins from the No. 1 and No. 3 courts, who won 6-1 and 6-2, respectively. In singles play, sophomore Maddie Lipp took the upper hand quickly in her match, winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0.
Following Lipp was fellow sophomore Erin Larner at the No. 1 singles court. Larner also won in straight sets over opponent Erin Faulkner, 6-4, 6-2.
Up 3-0 in the match, junior Jillian Rooney fell at No. 5 singles before sophomore Alex Chatt wrapped up the victory for the Cats. Chatt fought back from being down 3-2 in the second set to take the match 6-3, 6-4, battling her opponent at the No. 4 singles court.
Finishing off Spartans 4-1 means that the Cats will face Michigan in the semifinals after they knocked off Purdue 4-0. The post-season rematch will be more difficult than the match last weekend, when NU upset the Wolverines. Coach Claire Pollard has said recently the post-season brings more intense matches than the regular season, so a match pitting the Cats against Michigan could be even more electric than the regular season contest.