Minnesota nabs two home victories

Junior Paula Rincon-Otero hits the ball on Sunday at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Junior Paula Rincon-Otero hits the ball on Sunday at the Baseline Tennis Center.

Danny Chen

After a five-match road trip, the Gophers finally came back to the friendly confines of the Baseline Tennis Center this weekend for a pair of matchups against Big Ten opponents.
 
No. 59 Minnesota took two victories with ease, defeating Iowa 6-1 and Nebraska 5-2. The team has now won four consecutive matches.
 
“It’s one of those weekends where we did well on holding serve,” head coach Chuck Merzbacher said. “You [have] your home matches, and you just want to get the wins. Our goal was to go 1-0 each day, and I think we did a great job.”
 
Against Iowa, Minnesota took the doubles point after the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairings rallied to beat their opponents 8-6 and 8-4, respectively.
 
“The doubles point definitely put pressure on the other team,” Merzbacher said.
 
In the singles competition, the Gophers only dropped one match at the No. 6 spot.
 
Senior Tereza Brichacova dropped her first set 6-2, but she rallied back in her second set, winning 6-1. 
 
In the third set, a super tiebreaker played out, and Brichacova ultimately won with an 11-9 decision.
 
Brichacova said she played her opponent in the fall season, so she knew plenty about her.
 
“I just tried to stick to my game and play my best,” Brichacova said. “I think in the first set she just had better shots than me. I tried to fight my way back in, and luckily it went my way.”
 
The Gophers won 5-2 against Nebraska, only losing at the No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots.
 
“We are a really good team at home,” Merzbacher said. “When we get teams here, it’s going to be a tough day for them.”
 
The meet was technically finished after Minnesota took a 4-0 lead. 
 
However, both teams decided to finish the remainder of the matches, which enabled an exhilarating finish for No. 6 singles player Paula Rincon-Otero.
 
Rincon-Otero’s first set went into a tiebreaker, where she eventually lost in a 9-7 decision.
 
But she collected herself and was able to win the long-lasting match.
 
“[The match] showed that she is a really tough player,” Brichacova said. “She didn’t back up, and she stayed in the tiebreaker.”
 
Men’s team splits victories
 
The Gophers entered the weekend on a four-match winning streak.
 
But that came to a halt against Ohio State on Friday when No. 29 Minnesota fell to the No. 11 Buckeyes 4-2. 
 
“Ohio State is a very good team, and playing in their building is not easy to do,” head coach Geoff Young said. “We played well and gave ourselves the chance to get the doubles point. But in the end, Ohio State played too [well].”
 
After losing the doubles point, the Gophers tried to fight back with a victory from Leandro Toledo.
 
Toledo, ranked No. 25 in the nation, defeated No. 32 Mikael Torpegaard 7-5, 6-1.
 
“I served really well in the beginning,” Toledo said. “And I returned well overall.”
 
Freshman Matic Spec won his individual match at No. 3 singles after dropping his first set.
 
Despite the efforts from both Toledo and Spec, their victories were not enough for Minnesota to climb back from its deficit.
 
Looking to avenge their first Big Ten loss, the Gophers came out strong against No. 49 Penn State in their second meet of the weekend.
 
Minnesota’s No. 1 and No. 2 doubles took the victory away from the Nittany Lions, winning 8-6 and 8-7, respectively.
 
“We played outside, and it was a little chilly,” Young said. “But I think it’s good that we kind of got a practice in [outside]. We will most likely play another match in those conditions. It was a good effort, and it was nice to get out of here with a win.”