Women’s tennis sweeps at home

Mark Heller

With just two weeks until the Big Ten championships, the Gophers women’s tennis team is driving on high octane.
This weekend Michigan and Michigan State were nothing more than snow being plowed over by Minnesota (13-5 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten). The Gophers beat Michigan 5-2 on Friday at the 98th Street Racquet Club in Bloomington, Minn., then disposed of Michigan State 6-1 at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., on Sunday.
The match was the last home match for three Minnesota seniors: Sitinee Rangsithienchai, Tarah Elkins and Jana Hrdinova.
“I think it was important for us to win these matches at home,” junior Nora Sauska said. “They were the seniors’ last (home matches), and we’re going to lose three really good players.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the Big Ten (tournament). We want to win so bad and perform better and better each week.”
Minnesota swept the doubles matches against Michigan. Elkins and Rangsithienchai won their eighth consecutive match, beating Kelli Hayes and Niki Skogerbee 8-5. Kim Simonsen and Jana Hrdinova won 8-3 and Sauska and freshman Jen Howard won 8-2.
The Gophers have won six of eight doubles points in Big Ten matches this season.
Sauska, Simonsen, Rangsithienchai, Elkins and sophomore Tammy Wang all won their singles matches. Only Elkins needed three sets to defeat Brooke Townsend 5-7, 6-2, 7-6.
Wang’s win over Jaime Tannenbaum at the No. 6 position for Minnesota, making Wang 8-0 overall this season.
“Tammy has been huge,” Gophers coach Martin Novak said. “If we were soldiers, I’d want her on my platoon.”
On Friday, Minnesota swept the doubles matches and got singles wins from Sauska, Rangsithienchai, Simonsen and the clinching match by Wang, who beat Alison Sinclair 6-2, 7-5.
“It was a very good win for us,” Novak said. “Traditionally Michigan is a nerve-racking experience. But we turned it into a rather convincing win.”
The weekend sweep guarantees Minnesota that it will not play a Thursday match at the Big Ten tournament April 29-May 2 at Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.
Before they get to Michigan State, however, the Gophers will travel to Ohio State and Penn State this weekend to take on the Buckeyes on Friday and the Nittany Lions on Sunday.
But Minnesota already has their sights and goals set on East Lansing and the Big Ten tournament. Sauska pledges that this year’s trip won’t end like last year’s when the team lost its first match against Michigan.
“This time we really believe it,” she said.