Gophers women’s tennis go undefeated against Ohio State, Penn State

Minnesota’s undefeated weekend included winning on its senior day Sunday.

Senior Caroline Ryba looks to return the ball at Baseline Tennis Center on Saturday, Mar. 4, 2017.

Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Senior Caroline Ryba looks to return the ball at Baseline Tennis Center on Saturday, Mar. 4, 2017.

Max Biegert

It was a senior season to remember for Minnesota’s Caroline Ryba and Mehvish Safdar. 

Earlier in her senior year, Ryba had eclipsed the 50-match mark in the No. 1 singles spot. Safdar, along with her doubles partner, Caitlyn Merzbacher, has a record of 12-5. 

Minnesota went 2-0 on the weekend, which included Safdar’s and Ryba’s final regular season dual at Baseline Tennis Center. They improved to 5-1 in the Big Ten, matching the total number of Big Ten victories from last season. 

The Gophers (13-8, 5-1) defeated Penn State (7-11, 2-5) 5-2 Sunday.

“It was a great win today,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. “Penn State is a tough team, but to win at home on senior day is memorable for our seniors. To send them off on a win at home is pretty special.”

Similar to the match against Ohio State on Friday, the Gophers clinched the doubles point from the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spots. Tina Kreinis and Annemarie Emme battled and won their match 6-4. The duo of Ryba and freshman River Hart won 6-3. 

“I tried so hard to treat it like a regular match, but I was pretty tense knowing it was my last regular season match,” Ryba said. “I’m just glad we came out with the win.”

Merzbacher extended her record this year to 19-2 in the clinching match for the Gophers. After coming back in her first set, she battled hard in the second set to win in a tiebreak. 

To set up Merzbacher’s clinching match, Kreinis followed up her doubles win with a singles victory of her own in the No. 2 spot, winning 6-0, 6-1. Ryba collected a straight set victory in her final regular season match to extend Minnesota’s lead to 3-0. 

Minnesota beats Ohio State

Minnesota beat Ohio State (10-6, 4-3) 4-3 on Friday night at the Baseline Tennis Center. Ohio State won the Big Ten the past two years, but the Gophers hung on to beat the Buckeyes. 

“We stayed aggressive at the end of the match,” Thompson said. 

The Gophers got off to a good start in the dual by taking the doubles point. First, the duo of  Kreinis and Emme won 6-2. From the No. 3 spot, the pairing of Hart and Ryba cemented the doubles point for Minnesota with a 6-3 victory. 

Ohio State would need to get four victories to win the dual. Minnesota continued their hot start in singles, winning the first two matches. First, it was Ryba winning in straight sets — 6-1, 6-3 — and then Merzbacher won right after 6-2, 6-2. The Gophers were up 3-0 in the dual, but wouldn’t have that comfortable of a lead soon. 

The Buckeyes took the next three matches to pull the dual even, leaving the No. 3 singles match as the clinching match. Mancera won that match and the dual for the Gophers winning in straight sets 6-2, 7-6 (8-6). 

“It was a team effort; everyone showed up today and everyone competed, and it feels good to clinch,” Mancera said. “I knew that I had to step up and go after my shots, and it feels really good to comeback in that tiebreaker and get the win.”