Gophers split series with victory over Iowa and loss to Nebraska

Minnesota beat Iowa on Friday, but lost to Nebraska on Sunday.

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

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher reached 21 victories on the season, but that was not enough for the dual victory. 

Minnesota (14-11, 6-5) lost to No. 46 Nebraska (18-6, 7-4) 4-3 on the outdoor courts in Lincoln, Nebraska. The doubles point proved to be the deciding factor in another close Big Ten battle for the Gophers. Nebraska clinched the doubles point from the No. 1 spot and took the first three of four singles matches.

“Doubles was a crucial point today, we had some chances, but the match didn’t fall our way and having that momentum shift to Nebraska had us playing from behind in singles,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. 

Minnesota dropped the doubles point after Annemarie Emme and Tina Kreinis got the Gophers off to a good start, winning their match 6-4 in the No. 2 spot. In the No. 3 spot, Nebraska evened the doubles portion of the dual up with a 7-5 victory over Caroline Ryba and River Hart. 

The match came down to the pairing of Mehvish Safdar and Merzbacher in the No. 1 spot. The duo couldn’t pull out the victory, losing 7-6. 

Nebraska continued its early success in the match with victories in the No. 2 and No. 4 spots. Kreinis was defeated 1-6, 1-6. Barbara Mancera lost 1-6, 2-6. 

Cammy Frei helped get Minnesota on the board first with a 6-1, 6-1 victory in the No. 6 spot. However, Nebraska would clinch the victory after Emme was defeated in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. 

Minnesota won the next two matches to pull within one of the Cornhuskers. Ryba won in the No. 1 spot 7-5, 6-2. 

Merzbacher improved her record with a 7-6, 5-7, 13-11, three-set victory. 

“[Merzbacher] finds a way to win. She did a good job today with a long tiebreaker with very few unforced errors,” Thompson said. 

Minnesota beats Iowa 

Mancera had her singles match go into three sets before she could clinch the victory in her match and for the Gophers. 

Minnesota beat Iowa (10-13, 2-8) 4-3 on Friday night in Iowa City. Minnesota put its doubles woes from last week behind them as it clinched the doubles point from the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. Minnesota then took half of the six singles matches to clinch the dual victory. 

“Every match in the Big Ten, you know you are in a for a tough match and a battle,” Thompson said. “[Mancera] was huge for us in digging deep and getting the win there.”

Frei picked up a victory in straight sets 6-0, 6-3 in the No. 6 singles spot to extend the Gophers lead in the dual to 2-0. Merzbacher extended the lead to 3-0, winning 7-5, 6-0. 

Iowa picked up a victory in the No. 2 spot when Kreinis lost to the Hawkeyes’ Zoe Douglas 4-6, 2-6. 

Mancera was then set up to bring home the clinching point for the Gophers. After cruising to a first set victory 6-1, Mancera was outmatched in the second set and lost 0-6. In the third set, she regrouped and pulled out the victory 6-2 after being down 2-1 early in that set. 

The Gophers will now focus their attention on the Big Ten championships where they will play host. Minnesota is 12-2 at home on the year.

“We are extremely excited to be hosting … playing at home, we have had a great home record this year and every match we play at home we feel confident,” Thompson said.