No. 23-ranked Northwest men’s tennis faced regional foe Southeastern Oklahoma State April 1, looking to stay in the No. 1 spot in the MIAA North Division.
The Bearcats (11-2 overall, 6-0 North Division) started the contest slow, but roster depth played a key factor late, securing a 4-3 victory over the Savage Storm.
Southeastern dominated doubles play, picking up victories at No. 1 and No. 3. While Northwest duo Andrea Zamurri and Franco Oliva picked up a 6-2 set win, improving their overall record to 8-3, the Savage Storm held a 1-0 lead after doubles play.
Struggles continued for the Bearcats when Southeastern took a tight grasp on the duel by scoring wins at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. However, the bottom half of the roster ignited a spark, with juniors Martin Sanchez and Agustin Velasco securing wins to tie the match at 3-3.
“I think we really have a complete team with the guys this year, where anybody can win at any spot at any time,” Northwest coach Mark Rosewell said about the roster’s depth. “You saw our two and three got beat, and we lost the doubles. It came down to a 4-3 match in which this team beat us last year 4-0, so it was outstanding.”
The duel came down to the No. 4 singles. Northwest freshman Filippo Piranomonte felt the pressure of propelling the Bearcats to a victory heading into the third and final set against Savage Storm junior George Botha.
In crunch time, Piranomonte seemed unfazed, swinging the racket to a 6-1 third set victory, breaking a two-duel losing streak for the Bearcats.
“Well, I think both teams are really coming together as we play more matches and get to know each other better and so forth,” Rosewell said. “I think we got a really great team concept going right now, as far as what has to be done and so forth to succeed, and we’re doing it.”
The recognition for Bearcat men’s tennis did not end there, as Zamurri was named MIAA's men's tennis athlete of the week, the second time he has been awarded the title this season.
Zamurri went 2-0 in singles and 2-0 in doubles and helped Northwest win a pair of duels against Rockhurst and Southeastern Oklahoma State. Zamurri also improved his single record at No. 1 to 13-0 this season.
“Well, he’s a returning All-American in doubles, but I think he’s also been the No. 1 in the region on the singles rankings,” Rosewell said. “I think if he keeps it up like he’s doing, of course, he’s undefeated right now, but he has a chance to be an All-American this year. We’ll see how it turns out.”
The next opponent for the men is No. 24 Southern Arkansas April 11 in Topeka, Kansas. The last matchup between these two schools took place March 10, 2020, when the Muleriders stole a 4-3 victory.
Southern is a tough matchup for anyone, having exceptionally well depth among its roster. The skillset between numbers 1-6 is nearly equal, and they can compete with anyone lined up across the net.
Northwest remains two games ahead of Washburn (3-0 MIAA North). With another MIAA matchup looming for the Bearcats, they are looking to keep that separation between the Ichabods and are ready for any obstacle thrown their way.
“No, I don’t think so,” Rosewell said about feeling pressure facing Southern. “They are in the South (Division), so you know, it’s a little bit different. I think the guys know it’s a very important match, but I wouldn’t say pressure.”
Northwest women’s tennis had an eventful weekend, playing three different teams on three different days on the road. Like the men, the women (6-4 overall, 3-1 MIAA) began their weekend stretch April 1 against the Savage Storm.
Southeastern took an early 1-0 lead by winning a tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles, but singles play was all Bearcats, leading to a 4-3 duel victory.
Northwest sophomore Julia Aliseda improved her record to 6-0 at No. 3 singles, and freshman Vera Alenicheva moved to 8-0 at No.1 singles.
The fate of the duel rested on the shoulders of freshman Angela Per Moreno. Going into the third set tied at 3, she had to overcome Southeastern junior Vanessa Cozamanis. It was a back-and-forth battle, but Moreno pulled away, winning the third set 6-3.
“It’s one thing to feel pressure for your own individuel match, but when the whole match is on your court, now that is pressure,” Rosewell said. “It’s the best I’ve seen her play since she’s been here, so that tells you something right there. She played outstanding that day.”
The women were right back at it April 2, facing Northeastern State, a team the Bearcats have not beaten since 1989.
Northwest showed no sign of exhaustion, and stormed past the RiverHawks by winning 6-1. The win broke a 20-duel losing streak to the ’Hawks and moved the ’Cats to 3-20 all time versus Northeastern.
The Bearcats took advantage of every asset of the duel. Northwest scored wins at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, while taking five of the six singles matches. Freshman Tessa Kwakernaak picked up her first win of the year at No. 1 singles in two sets.
“With seven freshmen, they really don’t know who’s who and who we’re playing and so forth,” Rosewell said. “We beat them easily; we beat them 6-1, and almost 7-0 actually. That just shows you that we do have potential.”
The road trip ended April 3 against No. 5 Central Oklahoma. The Bearcats had no answers for the Bronchos, losing 7-0 and suffering their first MIAA loss of the season.
While undermatched, Northwest put up a fight in matches across the duel. The duo of Aliseda and Moreno took Central’s No. 2 doubles to the wire but lost 7-5. Northwest freshman Victoria Caster was the only Bearcat to score a set victory in singles action. Caster took Central’s Blythe Buntrock to three sets at No. 5 singles but lost the tiebreaker 10-6.
The women will follow the men March 11 to Topeka, Kansas, to face Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders stole a 6-1 duel victory on March 10, 2020.
Muleriders freshman Honoka Yoshimura is 10-0-1 this season and will be a threat at the No. 5 singles spot. Freshman Angela Vargas is the highlight at the No. 1 singles spot, having secured second place all time in singles wins for Southern Arkansas at 36, winning 73.5% of the time in single matches.
“They’ve got a very good team; they’re one the best teams in the region, and that’s going to be a real challenge,” Rosewell said. “We’re playing them on a neutral court, so that should help us a little bit after having to play down there last year. I’m hoping that will give us enough juice to get us over.”