The Gophers drop two matches to top 15 teams in Illinois

Cammy Frei won her match against Northwestern over the weekend.

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball during her singles match against the University of South Dakota at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 9.

Jack Rodgers, Daily File Photo

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher returns the ball during her singles match against the University of South Dakota at the Baseline Tennis Center on Friday, Feb. 9.

Max Biegert

A couple of slow starts for Minnesota set them back in its road trip to Illinois over the weekend. 

Minnesota (13-10, 5-4 Big Ten) lost to No. 12 Northwestern (17-4, 10-0 Big Ten) 6-1 on Sunday in Evanston, Illinois. The Gophers battled in the doubles portion of the dual, but still came up short. In singles, Cammy Frei was the only player to claim victory for the Gophers. 

“If we get into holes early against the top 15 teams in the country, then it is going to be really tough to climb out of it,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. 

In the No. 1 doubles spot, Mehvish Safdar and Caitlyn Merzbacher went up against the No. 4 ranked doubles duo in the nation and couldn’t create any momentum as they lost 6-0. Caroline Ryba and River Hart climbed back into their match in the No. 3 doubles position, getting to 5-5. They couldn’t get over the hump and fell 7-5, losing the doubles point. 

Northwestern carried momentum from its doubles victory into the singles portion of the dual, winning the first three singles matches in straight sets to clinch the dual win and remain undefeated in Big Ten play. 

No. 35 ranked Erin Larner defeated Ryba 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 1 spot. In the No. 3 spot, Annemarie Emme lost 3-6, 1-6. Bita Mancera lost 2-6, 2-6 in the clinching match for the Wildcats. 

Tina Kreinis battled the No. 68 ranked player in the nation and took her match to three sets. Kreinis eventually lost, though, 1-6, 7-5, 0-1. Merzbacher lost her third match of the year in the No. 5 spot 4-6, 4-6. 

Frei won her match in the No. 6 spot 6-4, 6-4 to give Minnesota their lone singles victory of the weekend. 

“We knew coming in we were going to be in for a battle, but it opened our eyes that we can play at that level. But we just can’t keep digging ourselves holes early,” Thompson said. 

Minnesota Falls to No. 14 Illinois 

Minnesota traveled to Illinois to face No. 14 Fighting Illini (19-3, 8-2 Big Ten) on Friday evening in Champagne, Illinois. The Gophers lost 4-0 after dropping the doubles point and the first three singles matches of the night. 

“We saw we can play with them and we had opportunities, but it was tough to climb out of the hole we dug ourselves in doubles,” Thompson said. 

The No. 44 ranked duo of Sasha Belaya and Daniela Novak beat the doubles team of Safdar and Merzbacher 6-2. Illinois clinched the doubles point with a victory over Hart and Ryba in the No. 3 doubles spot. 

Minnesota fell behind quickly in the singles portion of the match, too. Frei lost 3-6, 4-6 in the No. 6 spot to extend the Illini lead to 2-0. Mancera lost 1-6, 4-6 in the No. 4 singles spot. 

Kreinis lost in the No. 2 spot 1-6, 4-6, which clinched the dual for Illinois. 

“When we play the top teams in the Big Ten and in the country, we have to play aggressively, we can’t just sit back and think they are going to miss … they are very disciplined,” Thompson said.