Nearly 100 fans gathered around the Huether Tennis Centre in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as Northwest’s No. 1 singles player Andrea Zamurri took the court against Augustana’s No. 1 Cade Damgaard April 18.
Zamurri seemed unfazed in his first set, sweeping Damgaard 6-0. Vikings’ fans knew their No. 1 singles player needed some extra help and came to the rescue by switching the momentum in favor of Damgaard. The cheers happened to get into Zamurri’s head, and he dropped the second set 6-3.
As the third set was about to begin, and Zamurri was feeling stranded on the court, he dug into his potential and swept the final set 6-0 to improve his spring record to 14-0. The impressive play of Zamurri paved the way for his third MIAA Men's Athlete of the Week award this season.
“He’s a fine, fine athlete; he’s just a wonderful person. It’s the total definition of a blue-chip athlete,” Northwest coach Mark Rosewell said about Zamurri. “He’s a great student. He’s the whole package. He came back and won the third set 6-0, so it wasn’t too much.”
No. 19 Northwest (12-3 overall, 6-1 MIAA) rolled past Augustana April 18 with a 7-0 sweep. The duel victory captured the Bearcats’ sixth win in the past seven matches, keeping them in the driver’s seat for the No.1 seed in the MIAA.
The duel was all Bearcats from the start, as Northwest dominated the doubles matches, outscoring the Vikings 19-11. This marked the third time the ’Cats swept all three doubles matches this season, the last time coming against Emporia State March 27.
“Well, for once, we clicked on all the cylinders. We’ve been trying to do that; it’s hard to do, but we played very well,” Rosewell said. “When people are watching, it adds excitement. It always makes you play your best, I think, because you want to show what you have.”
Northwest will close out its regular season April 24 against No. 17 Washburn (9-3 overall, 2-0 MIAA). Since the departure of Southwest Baptist from the MIAA, the Ichabods have risen as a true rival against the Bearcats. The duel controls the fate of both teams, as the winner will take sole control of first place in the MIAA North.
Junior Raul-Alin Dicu headlines Washburn’s roster, picking up the MIAA Men's Tennis Athlete of the Week of the North Division April 12, which was the second time Dicu earned the accolade this season.
Dicu holds an overall singles record of 38-26 and an overall doubles record of 34-30. In his last matchup at No. 1 singles April 11 against Bethel, he won in two sets 6-1, 6-3.
“There’s always pressure with matches, that’s why we play and so forth,” Rosewell said about the upcoming duel. “Not only does this duel tell us where we will be in the conference, but it has regional implications as well. It is a huge match; there is no getting around it.”
As Northwest wraps up the regular season this weekend and prepares for the MIAA Tournament, Rosewell has learned a lot about his nationally-ranked Bearcats and has fallen in love with the game again.
“Well, No. 1, they’re pretty tough. We really haven’t had any injuries throughout the season. That’s always a good thing. Injuries are going to happen, so we’re hoping we can keep what we have going,” Rosewell said. “We’ve grown tremendously. It’s a really fantastic group. I haven’t had this much fun coaching for a couple years. They really revitalized me, it’s just a fine group.”
Northwest women’s tennis
Northwest’s No. 1 doubles players Vera Alenicheva and Julia Aliseda took the court against Fort Hays State April 17, looking to start the duel off on the right foot.
The pairing had no trouble handling the Tigers’ duo of Stefany Stemmer and Sydney McAdoo, winning the matchup 6-3. Alenicheva and Aliseda secured their eighth straight doubles win, improving the chemistry they’ve built since being moved to the No. 1 spot.
“We started them at No. 2; they had played there last spring before it stopped,” Rosewell said. “I don’t think either one of them are natural doubles players, more singles players, but they’re really getting the hang of playing doubles. They are our best team.”
The Bearcats (10-5 overall, 6-1 MIAA) exerted their dominance against the Tigers, sweeping the duel 7-0. At the time, the win was the ’Cats’ fourth consecutive match and also marked their eighth win in nine dual matches.
For the third time this season, Northwest won all three of the doubles matches. The singles play was just as dominant, as the Bearcats only dropped six games in the 12 sets that were contested.
“I think, particularly on the doubles, it was a confidence builder to try and get our doubles right,” Rosewell said. “I think that match did give us some confidence.
It was a different story April 18 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as the women faced No. 25 Augustana. The Bearcats’ roster, consisting of eight freshmen, battled through adversity but fell just short to the Vikings 4-2.
It was a different duel but the same story for Alenicheva and Aliseda, capturing the lone victory in doubles play 7-6. The win pushed the pairing to their ninth straight match to keep their unblemished record this spring.
Only two Bearcats were able to pick up victories in singles play in Alenicheva and Tessa Kwakernaak. Alenicheva took No. 1 Viking’s Valeriya Monko to three back-and-forth sets, winning 6-4, 6-7 and 6-2.
Kwakernaak faced a nail-biter at the No. 3 singles against Laura Arce Vieryra, having to go into three sets to grab a victory of her own, 6-4, 4-6 and 7-5. The win gave Kwakernaak her fifth singles win of the spring season.
“Yeah, that was a good win because a couple of years ago, when we beat them in the regional tournament, Laura was playing No. 2 for them and beat us,” Rosewell said. “For a freshman, that’s a good win. I think of all the freshmen we have, she would be at the top of the class at this point.”
The women will close their regular season in Topeka, Kansas, against Washburn (14-1 overall, 6-1 MIAA) April 24. The rivalry has been a battle to the final matches. Prior to Northwest’s 4-1 victory in 2019, the four previous duels had been decided by a single point.
“(Washburn) is an established program. It’s been around for many, many years,” Rosewell said. “There’s a lot of tradition there, and they’re serious about their tennis, much like we are at Northwest. They’ve always had very good depth and are solid all the way through. We’re not that far away, so it’s really a perfect rivalry.”
Ichabods freshman Marta Torres has taken the MIAA by storm, coming from Barcelona, Spain, where she competed with Club de tenis de la Salut team, qualifying for Spanish national tournaments in all categories, including the under 12, 14, 16 and 18 groups.
Torres is 13-2 overall at No. 1 singles and won her last matchup April 18 against Fort Hays State at the No 1 spot 7-5, 6-0.
The young Bearcat team has surpassed the expectation this season, and Rosewell has seen a lot of improvement from his squad as the season continues,
“I think we’ve just come so far, and really, we’re having a good year,” Rosewell said. “We don’t have a senior on the team. I’m just pleased as punch with what we’re doing and hoping we can carry that right on through the conference and the postseason.”