Spring 2017

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Senior Trio Sets Sights on Big Ten Title

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Konrad Zieba, Sam Shropshire and Strong Kirchheimer have led a resurgence for Northwestern’s program

Sam Shropshire, Strong Kirchheimer and Konrad Zieba
From left, Sam Shropshire, Strong Kirchheimer and Konrad Zieba. Photo by Michael Goss.

Before they even arrived at Northwestern, Konrad Zieba, Sam Shropshire and Strong Kirchheimer were already engaging in some friendly high school competition on the tennis court. Zieba had beaten Shropshire, who, in turn, had wins over Kirchheimer. But Kirchheimer also had wins over Zieba as the trio of recruits battled one another. All three ranked in the nation’s top 35 for their class, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.

“We all played each other, but we didn’t really know each other personally,” says Zieba, a senior from Glenview, Ill. “After we committed, we started to get to know each other more.”

As their relationships improved, so did their games.

Now senior tri-captains, they head the class that has led a resurgence for head coach Arvid Swan’s men's tennis program. As a team, Northwestern was ranked No. 15 in the nation to finish the 2015–16 season. Coming into the 2016–17 season, Northwestern was one of just two teams with three players in the top 50 of the national singles preseason rankings (No. 12 Zieba, No. 32 Shropshire and No. 44 Kirchheimer). In doubles, Shropshire and Zieba formed the No. 52 duo in the nation, while Kirchheimer and sophomore Ben Vandixhorn ranked No. 49.

“There’s definitely a sense of competition,” Kirchheimer says, but all three players agree that the competition has made each of them better. And their collective leadership this season could lead Northwestern to its first Big Ten title since 1990.