Gophers gain split after tough loss to fourth-ranked Illini at Baseline

Minnesota lost 4-3 to powerhouse Illinois on Saturday and beat Purdue 6-1 Sunday.

Bob Wothe

The weekend was a study in contrast for Minnesota’s men’s tennis team.

On Saturday, the team took on Illinois, the No. 4 team in the country and the Big Ten leader with an undefeated conference record.

Then, Sunday, the Gophers took on Purdue, an unranked team still looking for a Big Ten win.

For Minnesota (8-12, 5-5 Big Ten), a team right in the middle, the weekend ultimately went as expected.

The No. 53 Gophers dominated Purdue on Sunday 6-1, bouncing back from a tough 4-3 loss to the Illini on Saturday.

“It was a very interesting weekend,” interim coach David Wheaton said. “There was a huge difference in each match, as far as our mental approach. I was proud of the way we bounced back from the disappointment Saturday and were very workmanlike today.”

Minnesota raced out to the win over Purdue (3-15, 0-9) as the team took the doubles point and its Nos. 1-3 singles players all made quick work of their opponents.

But while the win over the Boilermakers was quick and painless for almost the whole team – Adrien Debreyne sat out the singles portion with a sore shoulder – the dual against Illinois was quite the opposite.

With a raucous crowd nearly filling Baseline Tennis Center, the Gophers put on one of their best performances of the season.

Illinois (19-3, 9-0) took the first point after a long battle at No. 3 doubles, in which Ryan Rowe and Chris Martin finally disposed of Mikey Kantar and D.J. Geatz 11-9 in a tiebreaker.

But Minnesota bounced back to take a 3-2 lead when Debreyne pulled a major upset of a top player for the second time in as many weekends, beating seventh-ranked Ryler DeHeart 7-5, 6-4.

“It’s good to see what my level is at,” said Debreyne, a native of France. “It’s good to get this experience here in my first year and see what I can do.”

From there, Geatz lost at No. 3 singles, and all the pressure fell upon Avery Ticer, the nation’s 25th-ranked player, at No. 1 singles.

But despite being tied in the third set at 4-4, Ticer relented to No. 28 G.D. Jones 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Nevertheless, as the team heads into the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, it was labeled a positive weekend by Wheaton and many players.

“It was a fantastic match,” Kantar said of the dual against Illinois. “We were a few points here and there away from winning it. And to have your No. 1 player tied 4-4 in the third set with the match on the line is exactly where you want to be.”

Women lose again

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team had another tough weekend, closing out its Big Ten season with just one win for the second-straight year.

The Gophers (6-14, 1-9) were blanked on points, losing all seven to No. 52 Purdue (7-12, 4-4) on Saturday and No. 50 Illinois (11-8, 5-3) on Sunday.

Minnesota won just one match all weekend. Jane Anderson and Ida Malmberg won 9-8 in a tiebreak at No. 1 singles against the Illini on Sunday.