Northwestern Club Tennis made program history following Nationals

Skye Swann, Development and Recruitment Editor

From a young age, Weinberg sophomore Eve Gold knew she wanted to play tennis as long as possible. After committing to Northwestern, Gold said one of her first missions was finding the University’s Club Tennis team.

However, her journey to find the team was sidetracked when NU announced a virtual Fall Quarter due to COVID-19 in 2020. It would be three months before the Maryland native reached her destination after being allowed on campus in January 2021.

“For me, Club Tennis was one of the very few social outlets I had at the beginning of COVID,” Gold said.

Spending some time off the court during quarantine, Gold experienced some apprehension going into tryouts. Although an elite player in arguably one of the most highly contested tennis locations — Bethesda, Maryland — she knew NU’s program was highly competitive.

But after taking some warmup hits, Gold said she said she found her groove. After making callbacks and completing rigorous tryouts, she made the team, to her joy.

From there, Gold said practices started off socially-distanced at the Combe Tennis Center. Even so, she said they were an excellent bonding experience, adding that her teammates would also play a couple rounds outside of practice. One of her friends and teammates, McCormick sophomore Mark MacGuidwin, agreed, calling his teammates some of his best friends.

Despite practicing throughout the 2020-21 season, there were no in-person competitions due to the pandemic. MacGuidwin said the lack of competition inspired the team to push each other in preparations for the return of these matchups.

“When you have people playing a sport we all enjoy three or four times a week, we hang outside of school and form really close bonds,” MacGuidwin said.

The program kicked into high gear in the 2021-22 season, according to President and Weinberg senior Josip Apostoloski. As one of the team’s leaders, Apostoloski said one of his goals for this season is to help new members prepare themselves for real competition. Although two of his seasons were put on hold due to the pandemic, Apostoloski wanted his last effort to focus on breaking the program’s records, including going to nationals.

Apostoloski said the USTA Midwest sectionals in February were the team’s biggest test. Because it was the program’s first meet, the squad had a huge obstacle to overcome, he said. With heavy hitters like Ohio State and Michigan at the meet, the group was facing its biggest battles to date, being considered an underdog in the faceoff.

But the squad came out victorious, winning the title of “Best Team In The Midwest” and clinching a bid to USTA Nationals. MacGuidwin said it was an amazing feeling, thinking back on all the team’s hard work from the previous season. With this huge obstacle tackled, he noted the team’s preparation for the biggest competition of the season.

“We knew we were strong going into it, but we just didn’t know how we’d measured up against the other sectional winners,” MacGuidwin said. “So Nationals was this test to say ‘we haven’t been here in years,’ let’s see how we do.”

About two months later, the squad headed to compete at Nationals in Orlando, Florida for the first time in four years, according to Apostoloski, who said this was the entire team’s first experience at this level of competition. With nerves skyrocketing, he said the main goal was to have fun but stick to the game.

After contested squareoffs, NU finished 11th in the nation, setting a new program record, according to Apostoloski. The team was ecstatic, commenting on the great accomplishment and the University’s pride to put the team on the map. Apostoloski detailed the program’s journey, mentioning its underdog status, and expressed his pride for every competitor.

Reflecting on his four years as a tennis player, Apostoloski said nationals was an amazing experience for furthering his tennis career and forming meaningful connections. As he finishes his presidency later this quarter, Apostoloski expressed excitement for what the squad will accomplish next season.

“It’s been a beautiful journey for me,” Apostoloski said. “A lot of growth. A lot of challenges that had to be overcome. But the club is in good hands, and the biggest thing is that (the team) has fun.”

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