Women steal first B-10 win

Ida Malmberg’s comeback win at No. 4 singles sealed a win over Penn State.

Bob Wothe

Just once, Ida Malmberg let loose.

In the third set of her three- hour-plus match against Penn State’s Andreea Niculescu on Sunday, Malmberg screamed “Bring it!”

Three games later, she put the finishing touches on a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 comeback victory to give Minnesota’s women’s tennis team (6-12, 1-7 Big Ten) its first Big Ten win of the year after losing 6-1 to Indiana on Friday.

“It feels really good to get another win,” Malmberg said. “It’s been so tough to lose all of the close matches this year, and I think this really gives us a lot of confidence.”

It was a repeat of last year’s match against the Nittany Lions (6-11, 1-7), when the Gophers also won 4-3 for their only Big Ten win of last season.

But such a repeat looked in doubt for quite some time.

After winning the doubles point, Minnesota fell into a quick 3-1 hole as its Nos. 2, 5 and 6 singles players all lost their matches.

But Nischela Reddy won in two sets at No. 1 after trailing early, and Lindsay Risebrough scrapped her way to a win at No. 3, putting all the pressure on Malmberg at No. 4.

Assistant coach Luciano Battaglini said Malmberg picked a perfect time to play her strongest mental match of the year.

“The way Ida was so composed out there speaks volumes about her,” Battaglini said. “She was in trouble early, and I don’t think it was her best tactical tennis of the year. But she was too tough mentally, and she got to the Penn State girl.”

Malmberg’s climactic win made most forget about the team’s loss Friday, when Reddy was the only one to notch a win against the 37th-ranked Hoosiers (12-9, 6-1).

Both matches marked firsts in coach Tyler Thomson’s four-year career at Minnesota, as they were the only two outdoor matches at the Baseline Tennis Center during his tenure.

And the team celebrated its last home dual of the year Sunday after Malmberg’s big win, giving some hope for a late-season run.

“We’ve struggled with confidence all season,” Risebrough said. “It’s been a frustrating season, and it seems like not all of us have been on at the same time. But I think finally getting this Big Ten win will help a lot.”

Ticer-less men split

Avery Ticer stood at Baseline Tennis Center on Sunday, ice wrapped around his left knee.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a strange sight – Ticer has struggled with knee problems all season.

But the rest of Minnesota’s men’s tennis team (7-11, 4-4) was in State College, Pa. And without Ticer, things didn’t go very well.

The Gophers fell 5-2 to Penn State as the Lions ran their record to 9-1 at home on the year.

It was a sour end to a weekend that started well when Adrien Debreyne’s 6-3 upset, 6-3 win over No. 49 Jakub Praibis keyed a 4-3 win over No. 56 Indiana (10-10, 4-3) on Saturday.

Minnesota closes out its regular-season slate next weekend at home against Illinois and Purdue.