Gophers split double-header in Washington

Caitlin Merzbacher moved to 11-1 in singles competition.

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

The Gophers traveled to the Pacific Northwest to play a double header on Friday. 

Minnesota lost 4-3 to Washington State and got the victory 7-0 over Eastern Washington in Pullman, Washington.

Junior Caitlyn Merzbacher improved to 11-1 on the season, playing in the No. 5 position. 

“I think the most important thing for her is that she has played a lot of matches in singles and she is just used to playing in singles now, and that experience is really helping her,” head coach Catrina Thompson said. “[She], along with Caroline Ryba, gives us a lot of match experience that translates into success.”

The Gophers (8-4) beat Eastern Washington (3-5) to end the double-header. Tina Kreinis, from the No. 2 singles spot, earned the clinching point for the Gophers. Minnesota ended up winning all of the matches and making a clean sweep of Eastern Washington. 

“It was a long day at the courts, and for our girls to bounce back after a tough first match, I was really proud of them,” Thompson said. 

In singles, Ryba bounced back after a loss in the first match of the double header. She won 6-2, 6-1. Barbara Mancera was second to finish in the singles portion of the match, earning a three-set victory: 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Kreinis won the clinching match in three sets as well, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. She came back from dropping the first set to win.

The Gophers return home next weekend to open their Big Ten season. They will face their border rivals Wisconsin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 3 at the Baseline Tennis Center. 

Minnesota loses another close match

In the first matchup, Minnesota lost to Washington State (10-1) 4-3 for the third time in a row. All four of Minnesota’s losses this season have been from the final match of the meet. Just like the meet against Missouri, River Hart was unable to pull out the clinching victory. 

The Gophers could not get out to an early 1-0 lead as Washington State took care of the doubles portion of the match in quick fashion. The pairing of Kreinis and Ryba were shutout in the No. 2 doubles spot. Minnesota also dropped the No. 3 duo.

“That was probably our worst doubles outing of the year, we just needed to come out with a little more fire,” Thompson said. 

Before Hart’s loss that clinched the winning point for the Cougars, No. 34 ranked Michaela Bayerlova took down Ryba in straight sets 7-5, 6-2 in the No. 1 singles spot. 

Kreinis picked up the win in the No. 2 singles spot for Minnesota’s first point of the day. Emme quickly followed her victory by winning in three sets. She took the first set 6-3, but then lost the next set 2-6. She came out strong in the third set and took care of business 6-4. 

Mancera lost in a three-set match that set up the last two matches. Needing just one more victory, the Cougars Melisa Ates defeated Hart 6-0, 6-3. 

“With [Hart], every match is a learning experience and with this weekend it was tough because she had to wait to play because there was only four courts,” Thompson said. “It’s tough to wait and then get thrown into a match where the clinching point is on the line.”