Gophers women advance to Big Ten quarterfinals, men upset in first round

Jace Frederick

The Gophers women's tennis team is not at full strength.

But that doesn't mean Minnesota was about to fall in the first round at the hands of their rival, head coach Chuck Merzbacher said.

"We weren't going to come down here to be upset by one of our rivals," he said. "We weren't going down that way."

No. 6 Minnesota rallied to win the last two singles matches to top No. 11 Wisconsin 4-3 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Evanston, Ill.

Tereza Brichacova, the Gophers No. 1 singles player, attempted to return from a wrist injury. Brichacova competed in the doubles with Jessika Mozia, but the pain prevented her from competing in the singles.

Brichacova's absence in the singles caused everyone to have to move up a spot. That can be difficult, but junior Julia Courter said it didn't affect the other players.

"Everyone was ready to go," she said. "Everyone was ready to step up."

That was evident on the courts. After taking the doubles point, the Gophers had to take three of the six singles matches. Minnesota fell at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 spots, but wins from Maja Vujic and Paula Rincon-Otero left the match tied at 3-3, leaving the match in the hands of Courter.

"She's the one you want out there," Merzbacher said. "She's just tough and she's got a strong spirit. We had the right person in there at the right spot at the right time." 

Courter won her match in straight sets, taking the second set in a tiebreak.

"Obviously we'd like to have not been in as close of a match," she said, "but I like to be in the position to win the match. … It was a battle and I'm glad it went our way."

Now the Gophers move on to face the three seed — Ohio State. Minnesota dropped a 7-0 decision to the Buckeyes when the two met in the regular season. Merzbacher said that might have been the best Ohio State played all season.

But this time around, one factor will likely be different. The previous match was played indoors, while tomorrow's quarterfinal is expected to be played outside. That's an advantage for Minnesota, Merzbacher said.

"I think they're more of an indoor team, we believe," he said. "I'd like to see how good they are outside. I'm sure they're still really good, but we're a pretty good outdoor team. We play well outside, so I'm excited about that."

Merzbacher said Brichacova will continue to get therapy on the wrist and the team will see if she can go tomorrow. He said she will likely try to first give it a go again at doubles and test the pain, but that was to be further discussed on Thursday night.

Still, whether their top singles threat can go or not, the Gophers are proud they have the opportunity to move on.

"We were down a man and we still got it done," Merzbacher said. "Now we get to play and just go for it." 

Men Fall

The men's team season likely came to an end on Thursday as No. 7 Minnesota was upset by No. 10 Indiana by a 4-3 decision.

The Gophers dropped the doubles point, as Jack Hamburg and Mathieu Froment fell 8-7 at No. 1 doubles. The loss significantly hurt the duo's NCAA chances. 

Junior Leandro Toledo topped No. 112 Sam Monette at No. 1 singles in a three-set thriller. Toledo came into the week at No. 42 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings and the win likely secures his NCAA Tournament singles berth.