When Minnesota’s men’s tennis team had its first shot at third-ranked Illinois two weeks ago, the Gophers came as close to the Illini as any other conference team this season with a 4-3 loss.
But after knocking off Michigan and second-seeded host Ohio State to reach the championship on Sunday, 24th-ranked Minnesota again fell to Illinois.
The 4-1 defeat was the Gophers’ 10th-consecutive loss to the Illini, who have also knocked Minnesota out of the conference tournament four times in a row.
The Gophers – who stressed the importance of doubles before leaving for the tournament in Columbus, Ohio – dropped the crucial double point by a narrow margin to begin the match.
Sophomore Aleksey Zharinov and freshman Avery Ticer won at No. 3 doubles, but the Illini won the other two matches.
Zharinov earned Minnesota’s point with his 6-3, 6-0 victory over at No. 3 singles but junior captain Thomas Haug lost at No. 2 singles.
ïMinnesota’s third-ranked junior Harsh Mankad was named conference Sportsman of the Year and Athlete of the Year and was named to the All-Big Ten team along with No. 1 doubles partner Haug.