Kentucky Defeats Northwestern to Secure Spot in Sweet 16
LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the first time since 2014, the Kentucky men’s tennis team is headed back to the NCAA Sweet 16.
The blue and white prevailed in a battle of Wildcats on Saturday afternoon, as UK posted a 4-2 victory over Northwestern in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. Ranked eighth in the tournament and ninth nationally, Kentucky now sits at 23-7 overall on the year. Northwestern concludes its season at 20-11.
Kentucky will now face ninth-seeded Wake Forest on Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. ET. With UK owning the higher seed, the Sweet 16 will be held at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington.
UK secured the opening point in dramatic fashion. After initially trailing 2-3, Liam Draxl and Alexandre LeBlanc battled back to post a 6-4 win on court three over Trice Pickens and Natan Spear. Gabriel Diallo and Joshua Lapadat then earned the decisive point for the home team for the second day in a row after knocking off Simen Bratholm and Brian Berdusco in a 6-3 outcome on court two.
Northwestern picked up the first two singles matches on courts one and four to jump out to a 2-1 lead. Despite a strong comeback effort from No. 4 Draxl, No. 42 Steven Forman upset the reigning Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year in a 6-4, 7-6(7-2) result.
Over on the fourth spot, Francois Musitelli’s comeback attempt also fell just short as Northwestern grabbed another point. Despite trailing Presley Thieneman, 7-5, after the first set, the Dijon, France native forced a tiebreaker before ultimately dropping a narrow 7-6(8-6) decision.
It wasn’t long before captain Millen Hurrion soon leveled the score between the two Wildcat foes with a hard-fought victory on court three. No. 83 Hurrion, who clinched the match over DePaul in the first round to send UK to the Round of 32, topped Pickens 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 for his 19th individual win this season.
It was all blue and white from there when Diallo extended UK’s lead to 3-2 while playing on the second court. The junior, ranked 21st in the country, dropped a 6-4 opening set to Bratholm before bouncing back with 6-2, 6-4 frames to claim the point.
With the decisive point on the line, No. 113 Lapadat handily took care of business in the fifth spot. He clinched the match for Kentucky with back-to-back 6-1 sets for his team-leading 21st singles win of the year, good enough to send the Wildcats to the Sweet 16.
NCAA Tournament Second Round
Kentucky 4, Northwestern 2
1. No. 42 Steven Forman (NU) def. No. 4 Liam Draxl (UK) 6-4, 7-6(7-2)
2. No. 21 Gabriel Diallo (UK) def. Simen Bratholm (NU) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
3. No. 83 Millen Hurrion (UK) def. Trice Pickens (NU) 6-2, 2-6, 6-4
4. Presley Thieneman (NU) def. Francois Musitelli (UK) 7-5, 7-6(8-6)
5. No. 113 Joshua Lapadat (UK) def. Felix Nordby (NU) 6-1, 6-1
6. JJ Mercer (UK) vs. Brian Berdusco (NU) Unfinished
Order of finish: 1, 4, 3, 2, 5*
1. No. 55 Millen Hurrion/Francois Musitelli (UK) vs. No. 82 Steven Forman/Felix Nordby (NU) Unfinished
2. Gabriel Diallo/Joshua Lapadat (UK) def. Simen Bratholm/Brian Berdusco (NU) 6-3
3. Liam Draxl/Alexandre LeBlanc (UK) def. Trice Pickens/Natan Spear (NU) 6-4
Order of finish: 3, 2*