Abundance of close losses might favor Gophers

by Dan Miller

The question facing Minnesota men’s tennis coach David Geatz is whether a run of close losses is a good thing.

The 36th-ranked Gophers have lost five matches by a score of 4-3 since Jan. 23 and stand at 6-7 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. The question is how the losses will affect the Gophers as they enter the bulk of their Big Ten schedule.

Right now, Geatz doesn’t know.

“I have to wait and see,” he said. “Sometimes a string of losses can hurt your team’s confidence and sometimes they respond well.”

On the players’ side, Gophers captain Avery Ticer likes to think close losses are good for the team.

“When the team loses 4-3 players ask themselves what they could have done better,” Ticer said. “I think that causes them to respond positively.”

The Gophers are also feeling the pains of having their No. 1 singles player, Aleksey Zharinov, out with an injured rotator cuff. But the Geatz said he hopes to have him back for the third Big Ten match against Purdue on Sunday.

Without Zharinov the Gophers had to bump up their lineup and suffered a 5-1 defeat to San Diego on March 20.

The Gophers now look to their eight matches leading up to the Big Ten Championships, beginning April 29.

Illinois, ranked No. 1 in the nation, will be the team to beat, having not lost a match in two years.

Geatz said he hopes the Gophers will be one of the top teams of the conference and pointed to Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue as teams that will mix in the top Big Ten tier.

But by losing close matches in their nonconference schedule and going on without Zharinov, the Gophers have their work cut out for them.

Ticer again is optimistic.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “It’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish. We have a lot of young guys who, when the Big Ten Championships come around, will be ready to step up.”

Women’s tennis

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team enters the bulk of its Big Ten schedule looking for its first conference win.

The Gophers (2-10, 0-1 Big Ten) travel Saturday to Illinois. The trip south begins their Big Ten stretch leading up to the conference championships April 29.

The No. 72 Gophers will also face Purdue on Sunday to wrap up their busy weekend.

Senior Angela Buergis recorded the Gophers’ lone win in a 6-1 loss to Missouri last Saturday. Buergis has been the Gophers’ most consistent player and is now 9-3 at No. 1 singles in the spring season.