Minnesota escapes with much-needed win over conference rival Hawkeyes

The Minnesota men’s tennis team halted a three-match skid, returned to a .500 conference mark and improved its NCAA tournament chances Wednesday, all thanks to its narrow defeat of Iowa at the Baseline Tennis Center.

In a back-and-forth match with the unranked Hawkeyes (7-9 overall, 0-6 Big Ten), the Gophers (13-6, 3-3) used a doubles-point sweep and three singles victories to pull out the close 4-3 victory, their ninth consecutive over Iowa.

Coach Geoff Young said despite the relatively ugly win, there were some positives to take away from the match, including doubles play and a singles win from the bottom of the lineup.

But even with the positives, Young said the team’s best tennis was not on display against the Hawkeyes.

“It’s easy to play to the level of your opponent,” he said. “Not that we necessarily played bad (Wednesday), but I know we can play better.”

The afternoon began on a high note for the Gophers as the team took the doubles point in convincing fashion, winning all three doubles matches.

From that point on the two teams went back and forth as they alternated singles points the rest of the way.

Minnesota could have perhaps breathed easier, however, had one of its members not lost control in the fourth singles match.

With the Gophers up 3-1 and seemingly in control of the dual, senior D.J. Geatz, a 2006 All-Big Ten First Team selection, threw his racket against the net in frustration at the conclusion of the second set, instantly forfeiting the match.

But junior Raoul Schwark, ranked No. 73 in the nation and playing in the No. 2 singles spot, made sure an upset was not to be, taking his match in straight sets to give Minnesota a 4-2 advantage and its third conference victory.

With Geatz’s forfeit and senior Mikey Kantar’s straight-set defeat, Minnesota found one positive in the play of senior Sion Wilkins at the No. 6 singles spot, a new position for the senior who has taken the spot of senior Brian Lipinski, out for the season with an ankle injury.

Wilkins said for the Gophers to get better, he and others in the bottom half of singles will need to add to the already strong aspects of the team.

“Our 1-2-3 guys have been pretty consistent all year and our doubles keeps getting better,” he said. “We know we can count on those guys, but it’s up to the lower half to step up its game.”

Senior Nich Edlefsen said Iowa appeared to be fired up on Wednesday, and Minnesota quickly found itself in a dog fight that it responded well to.

“We really needed to get back on track and get some of our confidence back,” he said. “It was a tougher match than we expected, but it was still a huge win.”