Men’s tennis to host NCAA regional

Aaron Blake

A run to the Big Ten tournament championship match moved Minnesota’s men’s tennis team into the top 16 in the country. The 11th-ranked Gophers were accordingly awarded one of 16 host sites for the regional round of the NCAA tournament Wednesday.

It is the first time in program history the men will host a regional, and the team hopes to advance further than any Gophers squad has before them. In order to do so, it would have to win the four-team regional and also a match in the round of 16.

“Our expectations are very high,” Minnesota coach David Geatz said. “Our goal is to make the Sweet 16 and, once we get there, to win a couple more rounds. But winning the regional is our number-one priority.”

The Gophers (18-4) will face off with the fourth seed in the region, Binghamton, on May 10. The Bearcats (17-9) qualified for the tournament by winning the America East conference tournament this past weekend.

The other two teams set to play at Baseline Tennis Center next weekend are No. 25 Oklahoma State and No. 48 North Carolina. The Cowboys (16-4) received the second seed while the Tar Heels (11-11) earned the third.

Minnesota has not lost at its fledgling home this season, going 8-0 this spring at Baseline. Not surprisingly, Geatz is excited to be at home for the first two rounds of the tournament.

“It’s just a huge advantage to be seeded No. 1,” Geatz said. “We’re going to be tough to beat outside at our place.”

Women earn bid

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team did not earn the right to host a regional in the NCAA tournament. But the team did get a pleasant surprise when the brackets were revealed.

The 26th-ranked Gophers will travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to face No. 40 Pepperdine in the first round next weekend. Minnesota (18-6) was awarded the second seed in the regional while the Waves (12-13) got the third.

The surprise lies in UCLA, the host team. The 13th-ranked Bruins (13-10) are a lower first seed than Minnesota coach Tyler Thomson expected to be grouped with.

“I had expected us to be in a regional with a higher seed than that,” Thomson said of UCLA. “If they had gone by the national rankings, I would’ve expected us to be in a region with a team ranked between five and eight in the nation.”

The Bruins will battle IUPUI (20-4), the Mid-Continent Conference champions, in the first round.

Factoring into the selection committee’s pairings might have been the Gophers’ Big Ten regular-season championship and a win over Northwestern, one of the top 16 teams in the country. Minnesota had another close match with the Wildcats in the Big Ten tournament title match last weekend as well.

“You never know what they deem to be important,” Thomson said. “But obviously they have some respect for what we’ve done. I think we were ranked higher in their minds than our national ranking indicated.”

Aaron Blake covers tennis and welcomes comments at [email protected]